Mammalian Genome

, Volume 29, Issue 1–2, pp 141–152 | Cite as

Linking inter-individual variability to endocrine disruptors: insights for epigenetic inheritance

  • Sarah E. Latchney
  • Ashley M. Fields
  • Martha Susiarjo


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can induce a myriad of adverse health effects. An area of active investigation is the multi- and transgenerational inheritance of EDC-induced adverse health effects referring to the transmission of phenotypes across multiple generations via the germline. The inheritance of EDC-induced adverse health effects across multiple generations can occur independent of genetics, spurring much research into the transmission of underlying epigenetic mechanisms. Epigenetic mechanisms play important roles in the development of an organism and are responsive to environmental exposures. To date, rodent studies have demonstrated that acquired epigenetic marks, particularly DNA methylation, that are inherited following parental EDC exposure can escape embryonic epigenome reprogramming. The acquired epimutations can lead to subsequent adult-onset diseases. Increasing studies have reported inter-individual variations that occur with epigenetic inheritance. Factors that underlie differences among individuals could reveal previously unidentified mechanisms of epigenetic transmission. In this review, we give an overview of DNA methylation and posttranslational histone modification as the potential mechanisms for disease transmission, and define the requirements for multi- and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. We subsequently evaluate rodent studies investigating how acquired changes in epigenetic marks especially DNA methylation across multiple generations can vary among individuals following parental EDC exposure. We also discuss potential sources of inter-individual variations and the challenges in identifying these variations. We conclude our review discussing the challenges in applying rodent generational studies to humans.



S.E.L. is supported by funds from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (K12 GM106997). A.M.F and M.S. are supported by funds from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (T32 ES007026 and R00 ES02244).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

335_2017_9729_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (35 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 35 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental MedicineUniversity of Rochester School of Medicine and DentistryRochesterUSA

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