Epigenetic processes regulate gene expression by modulating the frequency, rate, or extent of gene expression in a mitotically or meiotically heritable way that does not entail a change in the DNA sequence. Originally the definition applied only to heritability across generations but later also encompassed the heritable changes that occur during cellular differentiation within one organism.
Molecular analysis shows epigenetic changes comprise covalent modifications, such as methylation and acetylation, to DNA and histones. RNA interference has been implicated in the initiation of some epigenetic changes, for example transcriptional silencing of transposons. Proteins which bind to the modified DNA and histones are then responsible for repressing transcription and for maintaining the epigenetic modifications during cell division.