Transgenerational disease specific epigenetic sperm biomarkers after ancestral exposure to dioxin

Environ Res. 2020 Oct 8;192:110279. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110279. Online ahead of print.


Dioxin was historically one of the most common industrial contaminants with several major industry accidents, as well as governmental actions involving military service, having exposed large numbers of the worldwide population over the past century. Previous rat studies have demonstrated the ability of dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)) exposure to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease susceptibility in subsequent generations. The types of disease previously observed include puberty abnormalities, testis, ovary, kidney, prostate and obesity pathologies. The current study was designed to use an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) to identify potential sperm DNA methylation biomarkers for specific transgenerational diseases. Therefore, the transgenerational F3 generation dioxin lineage male rats with and without a specific disease were compared to identify differential DNA methylation regions (DMRs) as biomarkers for disease. The genomic features of the disease-specific DMRs were characterized. Observations demonstrate that disease-specific epimutation DMRs exist for the transgenerational dioxin lineage rats that can potentially be used as epigenetic biomarkers for testis, kidney, prostate and obesity diseases. These disease-specific DMRs were associated with genes that have previously been shown to be linked with the specific diseases. This EWAS for transgenerational disease identified potential epigenetic biomarkers and provides the proof of concept of the potential to develop similar biomarkers for humans to diagnose disease susceptibilities and facilitate preventative medicine.

Keywords: DNA Methylation; Dioxin; EWAS; Epigenetics; Kidney; Obesity; Pathology; Prostate; Sperm; TCDD; Testis; Transgenerational.