Back to the future: Transgenerational transmission of xenobiotic-induced epigenetic remodeling

Josep C. Jiménez-Chillarón, Mark J. Nijland, António A. Ascensão, Vilma A. Sardão, José Magalhães, Michael J. Hitchler, Frederick E. Domann, Paulo J. Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Epigenetics, or regulation of gene expression independent of DNA sequence, is the missing link between genotype and phenotype. Epigenetic memory, mediated by histone and DNA modifications, is controlled by a set of specialized enzymes, metabolite availability, and signaling pathways. A mostly unstudied subject is how sub-toxic exposure to several xenobiotics during specific developmental stages can alter the epigenome and contribute to the development of disease phenotypes later in life. Furthermore, it has been shown that exposure to low-dose xenobiotics can also result in further epigenetic remodeling in the germ line and contribute to increase disease risk in the next generation (multigenerational and transgenerational effects). We here offer a perspective on current but still incomplete knowledge of xenobiotic-induced epigenetic alterations, and their possible transgenerational transmission. We also propose several molecular mechanisms by which the epigenetic landscape may be altered by environmental xenobiotics and hypothesize how diet and physical activity may counteract epigenetic alterations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-273
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Circadian clock
  • Epigenetics
  • Metabolism
  • Toxicology
  • Transgenerational effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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