Prenatal Exposure to DES linked to Hypermethylation of Homeobox A10

An Epigenetic Mechanism for Altered Developmental Programming

2009 Study Abstract

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a nonsteroidal estrogen that induces developmental anomalies of the female reproductive tract.

Hypermethylation of Homeobox A10 by in Utero Diethylstilbestrol Exposure: An Epigenetic Mechanism for Altered Developmental Programming, Research Gate, publication/24213324, March 2009.

The homeobox gene HOXA10 controls uterine organogenesis, and its expression is altered after in utero DES exposure.

We hypothesized that an epigenetic mechanism underlies DES-mediated alterations in HOXA10 expression. We analyzed the expression pattern and methylation profile of HOXA10 after DES exposure.

Expression of HOXA10 is increased in human endometrial cells after DES exposure, whereas Hoxa10 expression is repressed and shifted caudally from its normal location in mice exposed in utero. Cytosine guanine dinucleotide methylation frequency in the Hoxa10 intron was higher in DES-exposed offspring compared with controls (P = 0.017). The methylation level of Hoxa10 was also higher in the caudal portion of the uterus after DES exposure at the promoter and intron (P < 0.01).

These changes were accompanied by increased expression of DNA methyltransferases 1 and 3b. No changes in methylation were observed after in vitro or adult DES exposure.

DES has a dual mechanism of action as an endocrine disruptor;

  1. DES functions as a classical estrogen and directly stimulates HOXA10 expression with short-term exposure,
  2. however, DES in utero exposure results in hypermethylation of the HOXA10 gene and long-term altered HOXA10 expression.

We identify hypermethylation as a novel mechanism of DES-induced altered developmental programming.

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