Endocrine Disruptor Induction of Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Disease

DES phenotypes found to be due to abnormal epigenetic programming of some organs and critical genes

2014 Study Abstract

Environmental exposures such as toxicants, nutrition and stress have been shown to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease susceptibility. Endocrine disruptors are one of the largest groups of specific toxicants shown to promote this form of epigenetic inheritance. These environmental compounds that interfere with normal endocrine signaling are one of the largest classes of toxicants we are exposed to on a daily level. The ability of ancestral exposures to promote disease susceptibility significantly increases the potential biohazards of these toxicants. Therefore, what your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy may influence your disease development, even in the absence of any exposure, and you are going to pass this on to your grandchildren. This non-genetic form of inheritance significantly impacts our understanding of biology from the origins of disease to evolutionary biology. The current review will describe the previous studies and endocrine disruptors shown to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease.

DES Epigenetics

One of the best examples of a human model is in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when women in the late stages of pregnancy were exposed to the pharmaceutical diethylstilbesterol (DES) which was shown to promote abnormal uterine and cervical development in the female offspring and grand-offspring. Subsequently the phenotypes were found to be due to abnormal epigenetic programming of these organs and critical genes.


  • Full study (free access) : Endocrine disruptor induction of epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease, Molecular and cellular endocrinology, NCBI PubMed PMC4262585, 2014 Jul 31.
  • Epigenetic and genetic cascade of events involved in development featured image credit PMC4262585/figure/F1.

Have your say! Share your views