Plastic products and jet fuel exposures raising incidences of 'epigenetic transgenerational inheritance'

January 24, 2013

Washington State University researchers have lengthened their list of environmental toxicants that can negatively affect as many as three generations of an exposed animal's offspring.

Writing in the online journal , scientists led by Michael Skinner document reproductive disease and obesity in the descendants of rats exposed to the plasticizer bisephenol-A, or BPA, as well DEHP and DBP, plastic compounds known as phthalates.

In a separate article in the journal , they report the first observation of cross-generation disease from a widely used hydrocarbon mixture the military refers to as JP8.

Both studies are the first of their kind to see obesity stemming from the process of "epigenetic transgenerational inheritance." While the animals are inheriting traits conveyed by their parents' , they are also having with some genes turned on and off. Skinner's lab in the past year has documented these epigenetic effects from a host of environmental toxicants, including plastics, pesticides, fungicide, dioxin and hydrocarbons.

The recent PLOS ONE study found "significant increases" in disease and abnormalities in the first and third generations of both male and female descendants of animals exposed to plastics. The first generation, whose mother had been directly exposed during gestation, had increased kidney and prostate diseases. The third generation had pubertal abnormalities, testis disease, ovarian disease and obesity.

The study also identified nearly 200 epigenetic for exposure and transgenerational disease. The markers could lead to the development of a diagnostic tool and new therapies.

The Reproductive Toxicology study exposed to the hydrocarbon mixture as their fetuses' gonads were developing. The first generation of offspring had increased kidney and prostate abnormalities and ovarian disease. The third generation had increased losses of primordial follicles, the precursors to eggs, polycystic ovarian disease and obesity.

The study, said Skinner, "provides additional support for the possibility that environmental toxicants can promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease."

"Your great-grandmothers exposures during pregnancy may cause disease in you, while you had no exposure," he said. "This is a non-genetic form of inheritance not involving DNA sequence, but environmental impacts on DNA chemical modifications. This is the first set of studies to show the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease such as obesity, which suggests ancestral exposures may be a component of the disease development."

Explore further: Common fungicide causes long-term changes in mating behavior

Related Stories

Common fungicide causes long-term changes in mating behavior

March 27, 2007

Female rats avoid males whose great-grandfathers were exposed to a common fruit crop fungicide, preferring instead males whose ancestors were uncontaminated, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have discovered.

Recommended for you

Solving the mystery of meningiomas reveals a surprise twist

August 23, 2016

In solving one mystery—the genetic roots of benign brain tumors called meningiomas—a team of scientists led by Yale researchers stumbled upon an even greater one: How is it possible that two of the mutations linked to ...

Two key proteins preserve vital genetic information

August 22, 2016

Cancer is often driven by various genetic mutations that are acquired through changes to a person's DNA over time. These alterations can occur at the chromosome level if the proteins are not properly organized and segregated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.