Identification of hot spots of DNA methylation in the adult male adrenal in response to in utero exposure to the ubiquitous endocrine disruptor plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

Endocrinology. 2015 Jan;156(1):124-33. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1436.


Exposure to environmental toxicants during fetal development alters gene expression and promotes disease later in life. Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a plasticizer widely used for the manufacturing of consumer products. Exposure to DEHP has been associated with obesity, asthma, and low T levels. In utero exposure of pregnant dams to DEHP from gestational day 14 until birth resulted in reduced levels of serum T and aldosterone in the adult male offspring. Because DEHP is rapidly cleared from the body, the effects observed in the adult are likely epigenetic in origin. Under the same experimental conditions, we used reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing to assess changes in DNA methylation. We identified hot spots of DNA methylation changes primarily within CpG islands followed by shelf regions of the genome known to control regional gene expression. We also identified epigenomic areas responsive to exposure to environmental levels of DEHP and found the chromosomal region that houses genes controlling immune responsiveness to be a primary target of DEHP. These data suggest that DEHP phthalate exposure early in life induces epigenetic changes that may be linked to altered gene expression and function in the adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / drug effects*
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / administration & dosage
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endocrine Disruptors / administration & dosage
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Biomarkers
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate