Nature Reviews Genetics 8, 253-262 (April 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrg2045

Focus on: Epigenetics

Environmental epigenomics and disease susceptibility

Randy L. Jirtle1 & Michael K. Skinner2  About the authors


Epidemiological evidence increasingly suggests that environmental exposures early in development have a role in susceptibility to disease in later life. In addition, some of these environmental effects seem to be passed on through subsequent generations. Epigenetic modifications provide a plausible link between the environment and alterations in gene expression that might lead to disease phenotypes. An increasing body of evidence from animal studies supports the role of environmental epigenetics in disease susceptibility. Furthermore, recent studies have demonstrated for the first time that heritable environmentally induced epigenetic modifications underlie reversible transgenerational alterations in phenotype. Methods are now becoming available to investigate the relevance of these phenomena to human disease.

Author affiliations

  1. Department of Radiation Oncology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.
  2. Center for Reproductive Biology, School of Molecular Biosciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4231, USA.

Correspondence to: Randy L. Jirtle1 Email:


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