Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 360–368 | Cite as

Advances in research into gamete and embryo-fetal origins of adult diseases

  • Kexin Zou
  • Guolian Ding
  • Hefeng HuangEmail author
Review From CAS & CAE Members


The fetal and infant origins of adult disease hypothesis proposed that the roots of adult chronic disease lie in the effects of adverse environments in fetal life and early infancy. In addition to the fetal period, fertilization and early embryonic stages, the critical time windows of epigenetic reprogramming, rapid cell differentiation and organogenesis, are the most sensitive stages to environmental disturbances. Compared with embryo and fetal development, gametogenesis and maturation take decades and are more vulnerable to potential damage for a longer exposure period. Therefore, we should shift the focus of adult disease occurrence and pathogenesis further back to gametogenesis and embryonic development events, which may result in intergenerational, even transgenerational, epigenetic re-programming with transmission of adverse traits and characteristics to offspring. Here, we focus on the research progress relating to diseases that originated from events in the gametes and early embryos and the potential epigenetic mechanisms involved.


gamete embryo acquired inheritance intergenerational/transgenerational transmission epigenetic modification 


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This work was supported by Special Fund for the National Key Research and Development Plan (2017YFC1001303) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (81490742 and 31571556).


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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital, School of MedicineShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Institute of Embryo-Fetal Original Adult Disease, School of MedicineShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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