Environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of phenotype and disease

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 May 6;354(1-2):3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.10.004. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Environmental epigenetics has an important role in regulating phenotype formation or disease etiology. The ability of environmental factors and exposures early in life to alter somatic cell epigenomes and subsequent development is a critical factor in how environment affects biology. Environmental epigenetics provides a molecular mechanism to explain long term effects of environment on the development of altered phenotypes and "emergent" properties, which the "genetic determinism" paradigm cannot. When environmental factors permanently alter the germ line epigenome, then epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of these environmentally altered phenotypes and diseases can occur. This environmental epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of phenotype and disease is reviewed with a systems biology perspective.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Disease / genetics*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / pharmacology
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic* / drug effects
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Phenotype*
  • Reproduction
  • Systems Biology


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants