Endocrine Disruption : Transgenerational, Epigenetic Effects and Heritability

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific (1st) Statement, 2005

Transgenerational, epigenetic effects

EDCs may affect not only the exposed individual but also the children and subsequent generations. Recent evidence suggests that the mechanism of transmission may in some cases involve the germline and may be nongenomic. That is, effects may be transmitted not due to mutation of the DNA sequence, but rather through modifications to factors that regulate gene expression such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation.


There may be transgenerational effects of EDCs due to overt mutation or to more subtle modifications of gene expression independent of mutation (i.e., epigenetic effects). Epigenetic effects of EDCs include context-dependent transmission (e.g., the causal factor persists across generations) or germline-dependent mechanisms (i.e., the germline itself is affected). An example of germline transmission of an epigenetically modified trait is shown in a rat model for the fungicide vinclozolin and is manifested by a higher likelihood of metabolic disorders, tumors, and reproductive dysfunctions in the next four generations. In the case of DES, there are both human and experimental observations indicating heritability.


  • Full study (free access) : Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement, Endocrine Reviews, NCBI PubMed, PMC2726844, 2009 Jun; 30.
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