The ability of environmental factors to promote a phenotype or disease state not only in the individual exposed but also in subsequent progeny for successive generations is termed transgenerational inheritance. The majority of environmental factors such as nutrition or toxicants such as endocrine disruptors do not promote genetic mutations or alterations in DNA sequence. However, these factors do have the capacity to alter the epigenome. Epimutations in the germline that become permanently programmed can allow transmission of epigenetic transgenerational phenotypes. This review provides an overview of the epigenetics and biology of how environmental factors can promote transgenerational phenotypes and disease.
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