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Epigenetics. 2012 May;7(5):432-9. doi: 10.4161/epi.19794. Epub 2012 May 1.

Smoking induces differential miRNA expression in human spermatozoa: a potential transgenerational epigenetic concern?

Author information

1
Systems Toxicology Group, MRC Toxicology Unit, Leicester, UK. elt14@le.ac.uk

Abstract

Recent work has suggested that environmental chemicals, including those contained in cigarette smoke, can have adverse effects on the exposed individuals as well as their future progeny. The mechanisms underlying transmission of environmentally induced phenotypes through the germ line are not well understood. However, a predominant process appears to be the establishment of permanent heritable epigenetic alterations, and a number of studies have implicated microRNAs in such processes. Here, we show that cigarette smoke induces specific differences in the spermatozoal microRNA content of human smokers compared with non-smokers, and that these altered microRNAs appear to predominantly mediate pathways vital for healthy sperm and normal embryo development, particularly cell death and apoptosis. microRNA-mediated perturbation of such pathways may explain how harmful phenotypes can be induced in the progeny of smokers.

PMID:
22441141
DOI:
10.4161/epi.19794
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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