Epidemiological and experimental studies have provided considerable evidence that early environmental cues may influence an individual’s susceptibility to disease in later life. Organisms have evolved with the capacity for developmental plasticity in order to match their developmental trajectory to the environment, and this adaptive response is driven in part by epigenetic mechanisms. However, a mismatch between the induced phenotype and mature environment contributes to an increased propensity toward developing chronic noncommunicable disease. In this chapter we describe several epigenetic mechanisms and some diseases that arise from non-environmentally induced epigenetic errors. We also provide an overview of the evidence that early-life environmental variations alter predisposition to chronic metabolic and cardiovascular disease at maturity and that this is mediated by epigenetic processes. The potential for reversibility of developmentally induced epigenetic changes is discussed.
- García-Giménez JL (ed) (2016) Epigenetic biomarkers and diagnostics. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Gluckman PD, Buklijas T, Hanson MA (2015) The developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) concept: past, present, and future. In: Rosenfeld CS (ed) The epigenome and developmental origins of health and disease. Academic, London, pp 1–13Google Scholar
- Low FM, Gluckman PD, Hanson MA (2016) A life course approach to public health: why early life matters. In: van den Bosch M, Bird W (eds) Oxford textbook of nature and public health. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar