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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 4;105(44):17046-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806560105. Epub 2008 Oct 27.

Persistent epigenetic differences associated with prenatal exposure to famine in humans.

Author information

1
Departments of Molecular Epidemiology, Medical Statistics, and Gerontology and Geriatrics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands. b.t.heijmans@lumc.nl

Abstract

Extensive epidemiologic studies have suggested that adult disease risk is associated with adverse environmental conditions early in development. Although the mechanisms behind these relationships are unclear, an involvement of epigenetic dysregulation has been hypothesized. Here we show that individuals who were prenatally exposed to famine during the Dutch Hunger Winter in 1944-45 had, 6 decades later, less DNA methylation of the imprinted IGF2 gene compared with their unexposed, same-sex siblings. The association was specific for periconceptional exposure, reinforcing that very early mammalian development is a crucial period for establishing and maintaining epigenetic marks. These data are the first to contribute empirical support for the hypothesis that early-life environmental conditions can cause epigenetic changes in humans that persist throughout life.

PMID:
18955703
PMCID:
PMC2579375
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0806560105
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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