Nature Reviews Genetics 13, 97-109 (February 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrg3142

Epigenetics and the environment: emerging patterns and implications

Robert Feil1 & Mario F. Fraga2,3  About the authors


Epigenetic phenomena in animals and plants are mediated by DNA methylation and stable chromatin modifications. There has been considerable interest in whether environmental factors modulate the establishment and maintenance of epigenetic modifications, and could thereby influence gene expression and phenotype. Chemical pollutants, dietary components, temperature changes and other external stresses can indeed have long-lasting effects on development, metabolism and health, sometimes even in subsequent generations. Although the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown, particularly in humans, mechanistic insights are emerging from experimental model systems. These have implications for structuring future research and understanding disease and development.

Author affiliations

  1. Institute of Molecular Genetics (IGMM), CNRS UMR-5535 and the University of Montpellier, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, France.
  2. Department of Immunology and Oncology, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CNB-CSIC), Madrid, Spain.
  3. Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory, Institute of Oncology of Asturias (IUOPA-HUCA), University of Oviedo, Spain.

Correspondence to: Robert Feil1 Email:

Published online 4 January 2012