Influences of environmental toxicants on the human epigenome

Jorge A. Alegría-Torres, Valentina Bollati, Andrea Baccarelli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Epigenetics explores heritable changes in gene expression that occur without changes in DNA sequence. Several epigenetic mechanisms-among which DNA methylation, histone modifications and microRNA expression are the best studied-can adapt genome function to respond to environmental requirements. In this chapter, we review current evidences indicating that environmental agents are able to modify epigenetic markers. The epigenetic alterations induced by some exposures are the same as/or similarto epigenetic alterations found in patients with diseases. Several investigations have examined the relationship between exposure to environmental chemicals and epigenetics, and have identified toxicants that modify epigenetic states. Among these we will focus on exposure to particulate matter, heavy metals and organic compounds. We have also considered how the length of the exposure and the concentration of pollutants may modify the environment-epigenome interaction, and how genetic variability, prenatal exposure, and circadian rhythm may mitigate or overstate epigenetic disruptions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEpigenetics of lifestyle
PublisherBentham Science Publishers Ltd.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781608055340
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • DNA methylation
  • Environment-epigenome interaction
  • Environmental exposure
  • Epigenetic markers
  • Heavy metals
  • Histone modification
  • MicroRNA's
  • Organic compounds
  • Particulate matters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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