2017 Study Highlights
- Epidemiological and model system studies support an early origin of reproductive dysfunction.
- Estrogenic/anti-androgenic chemicals as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have vast developmental influences on adult reproductive outcomes.
- Gestational, perinatal, neonatal, and pubertal periods are “windows of susceptibility” for epigenetic programming.
- EDCs induce exposure-specific epigenetic modifications in regulatory genes in organs of the reproductive system.
- Germline epigenetic disruption is a mechanism underlying transgenerational inheritance of reproductive disorders.
Sex-specific differentiation, development, and function of the reproductive system are largely dependent on steroid hormones.
For this reason, developmental exposure to estrogenic and anti-androgenic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is associated with reproductive dysfunction in adulthood.
Human data in support of “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” (DOHaD) comes from multigenerational studies on offspring of diethylstilbestrol-exposed mothers/grandmothers.
Animal data indicate that ovarian reserve, female cycling, adult uterine abnormalities, sperm quality, prostate disease, and mating behavior are susceptible to DOHaD effects induced by EDCs such as bisphenol A, genistein, diethylstilbestrol, p,p’-dichlorodiphenyl-dichloroethylene, phthalates, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.
Mechanisms underlying these EDC effects include direct mimicry of sex steroids or morphogens and interference with epigenomic sculpting during cell and tissue differentiation.
Exposure to EDCs is associated with abnormal DNA methylation and other epigenetic modifications, as well as altered expression of genes important for development and function of reproductive tissues.
Here we review the literature exploring the connections between developmental exposure to EDCs and adult reproductive dysfunction, and the mechanisms underlying these effects.
Sources and more information
- Environmental factors, epigenetics, and developmental origin of reproductive disorders, Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), NCBI PubMed PMID: 27421580, 2017 Mar.
- Freestyle (Non-parametric) featured image credit Daniel Friedman.