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Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Nov 1;5(6):657-664.

Environmental induction of the fetal epigenome.

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Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


The healthy adult is the result of successful interaction between the maternal environment and the developing fetal epigenome. The Barker hypothesis first suggested that in utero exposure to the maternal environment impacts adult health and disease. Since the origin of this theory, numerous studies have lent further support. Epigenomic alteration involves DNA methylation and histone modifications. Pregnancy, when the epigenome is typically actively programmed, is a vulnerable time, when exposures may have the most profound epigenetic effect. Recent advances have allowed an understanding of the extent and mechanism by which environmental exposures alter the epigenome of the fetus. Healthcare providers who treat and counsel reproductive-age women are in a unique position to protect against these epigenetic alterations and therefore prevent adverse impact on the developing fetus that may manifest throughout life.

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