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FASEB J. 2011 Feb;25(2):797-807. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-172155. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

Epigenetics: prenatal exposure to genistein leaves a permanent signature on the hematopoietic lineage.

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Department of Health Risk Analysis and Toxicology, Research Institute NUTRIM, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands.


Recent studies demonstrate that maternal diet during pregnancy results in long-lasting effects on the progeny. Supplementation of maternal diet with genistein, a phytoestrogen ubiquitous in the daily diet, altered coat color of agouti mice due to epigenetic changes. We studied hematopoiesis of mice prenatally exposed to genistein (270 mg/kg feed) compared with that of mice prenatally exposed to phytoestrogen-poor feed and observed a significant increase in granulopoiesis, erythropoiesis, and mild macrocytosis at the adult age of 12 wk. Genistein exposure was associated with hypermethylation of certain repetitive elements, which coincided with a significant down-regulation of estrogen-responsive genes and genes involved in hematopoiesis in bone marrow cells of genistein-exposed mice, as assessed by microarray technology. Although genistein exposure did not affect global methylation in fetal liver of fetuses at embryonic day 14.5, it accelerated the switch from primitive to definitive erythroid lineage. Taken together, our data demonstrate that prenatal exposure to genistein affects fetal erythropoiesis and exerts lifelong alterations in gene expression and DNA methylation of hematopoietic cells.

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