Environmentally induced epigenetic memory

Fig. A current understanding of transgenerational inheritance of acquired traits in vertebrates.

Gene-environment interactions can lead to emergence of phenotypes. Environmental stressors are able to induce epigenetic changes (chemical modifications on DNA structure) that are mitotically (and may even be meiotically) stable. Environmental stressor-induced chemical modifications, such as DNA methylation or histone modifications, may or may not survive epigenetic reprogramming events that occur during early cleavage stage of embryo or during re-specification of primordial germ cells (PGCs) at the time of sex determination. We hypothesize that the epigenetic modifications that survive reprogramming serve as epigenetic memories and that these memories are associated with adverse health outcomes.

Our research is focused on unraveling of epigenetic memories established by estrogenic chemicals that humans and aquatic wildlife are exposed to. We take in vitro cell culture, in vivo animal models, next generation high throughput miRNA/RNA/methylome sequencing and histone profiling, and bioinformatic approaches to dissect molecular underpinning of environmentally induced health effects across three generations using medaka and mice as  model organisms. We anticipate finding permanent epigenetic memories that alter fine-tuned developmental transcriptional wiring leading to altered health conditions.

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