Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors

It is possible that DES promotes a transgenerational phenotype

2010 Study Abstracts

Environmental factors have a significant impact on biology. Therefore, environmental toxicants through similar mechanisms can modulate biological systems to influence physiology and promote disease states. The majority of environmental toxicants do not have the capacity to modulate DNA sequence, but can alter the epigenome. In the event an environmental toxicant such as an endocrine disruptor modifies the epigenome of a somatic cell, this may promote disease in the individual exposed, but not be transmitted to the next generation. In the event a toxicant modifies the epigenome of the germ line permanently, then the disease promoted can become transgenerationaly transmitted to subsequent progeny. The current review focuses on the ability of environmental factors such as endocrine disruptors to promote transgenerational phenotypes.

Transgenerational Phenomena

A classic example of a multigenerational phenotype involves the pharmaceutical agent with estrogen agonist activity diethylstilbesterol (DES). Exposure of a gestating female to DES was found to promote an abnormal reproductive tract and gonadal dysfunction in the F1 generation males and females, as well as abnormal female reproductive tract function in the F2 generation. Interestingly, the phenotype of the F1 and F2 generations have differences. Recent studies have started to emphasize the transgenerational aspect after early environmental exposures. F3 generation rodent models have not observed a major phenotype. It is possible that DES promotes a transgenerational phenotype, but extended generations need to be investigated.


  • Full study (free access) : Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors, Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), NCBI PubMed PMC3068236, 2010 Nov 3.
  • Featured image by guille pozzi.

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