Understanding Epigenetic Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: From Mechanisms to Novel Test Methods

Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2018 Jan;122(1):38-45. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12878. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are man-made chemicals that interfere with hormonal signalling pathways. They are used in, for example, production of common household materials, in resin-based medical supplies and in pesticides. Thus, they are environmentally ubiquitous and human beings and wildlife are exposed to them on a daily basis. Early-life exposure to EDCs has been associated with later-life adversities such as obesity, diabetes and cancer. Mechanisms underlying such associations are unknown but are likely to be mediated by epigenetic changes induced by EDCs. Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function that are heritable but do not entail a change in DNA sequence. EDCs have been shown to affect epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation and histone modifications. The scope of this article was to review today's knowledge about mechanisms involved in EDC-induced epigenetic changes and to discuss how this knowledge could be used for designing novel methods addressing epigenetic effects of EDCs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • DNA Modification Methylases / genetics
  • DNA Modification Methylases / metabolism
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Histone Code / drug effects
  • Humans
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • DNA Modification Methylases