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Semin Immunopathol. 2012 Sep;34(5):655-69. doi: 10.1007/s00281-012-0323-y. Epub 2012 Jul 10.

Early life precursors, epigenetics, and the development of food allergy.

Author information

1
Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205-2179, USA. xhong@jhsph.edu.

Abstract

Food allergy (FA), a major clinical and public health concern worldwide, is caused by a complex interplay of environmental exposures, genetic variants, gene-environment interactions, and epigenetic alterations. This review summarizes recent advances surrounding these key factors, with a particular focus on the potential role of epigenetics in the development of FA. Epidemiologic studies have reported a number of nongenetic factors that may influence the risk of FA, such as timing of food introduction and feeding pattern, diet/nutrition, exposure to environmental tobacco smoking, prematurity and low birth weight, microbial exposure, and race/ethnicity. Current studies on the genetics of FA are mainly conducted using candidate gene approaches, which have linked more than 10 genes to the genetic susceptibility of FA. Studies on gene-environment interactions of FA are very limited. Epigenetic alteration has been proposed as one of the mechanisms to mediate the influence of early life environmental exposures and gene-environment interactions on the development of diseases later in life. The role of epigenetics in the regulation of the immune system and the epigenetic effects of some FA-associated environmental exposures are discussed in this review. There is a particular lack of large-scale prospective birth cohort studies that simultaneously assess the interrelationships of early life exposures, genetic susceptibility, epigenomic alterations, and the development of FA. The identification of these key factors and their independent and joint contributions to FA will allow us to gain important insight into the biological mechanisms by which environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility affect the risk of FA and will provide essential information to develop more effective new paradigms in the diagnosis, prevention, and management of FA.

PMID:
22777545
PMCID:
PMC3439840
DOI:
10.1007/s00281-012-0323-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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