The biological basis and clinical significance of hormonal imprinting, an epigenetic process

Clin Epigenetics. 2011 Aug;2(2):187-96. doi: 10.1007/s13148-011-0024-8. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


The biological phenomenon, hormonal imprinting, was named and defined by us (Biol Rev, 1980, 55, 47-63) 30 years ago, after many experimental works and observations. Later, similar phenomena were also named to epigenetic imprinting or metabolic imprinting. In the case of hormonal imprinting, the first encounter between a hormone and its developing target cell receptor-usually at the perinatal period-determines the normal receptor-hormone connection for life. However, in this period, molecules similar to the target hormone (members of the same hormone family, synthetic drugs, environmental pollutants, etc), which are also able to bind to the receptor, provoke faulty imprinting also with lifelong-receptorial, behavioral, etc.,-consequences. Faulty hormonal imprinting could also be provoked later in life in continuously dividing cells and in the brain. Faulty hormonal imprinting is a disturbance of gene methylation pattern, which is epigenenetically inherited to the further generations (transgenerational imprinting). The absence of the normal or the presence of false hormonal imprinting predispose to or manifested in different diseases (e.g., malignant tumors, metabolic syndrome) long after the time of imprinting or in the progenies.