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Int J Genomics. 2017;2017:7526592. doi: 10.1155/2017/7526592. Epub 2017 May 8.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Environmental Toxicants: Epigenetics as an Underlying Mechanism.

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1
Department of Health Sciences, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Research, University of Yamanashi, 1110, Shimokato, Chuo, Yamanashi 409-3898, Japan.

Abstract

The increasing prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, especially autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), calls for more research into the identification of etiologic and risk factors. The Developmental Origin of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesizes that the environment during fetal and childhood development affects the risk for many chronic diseases in later stages of life, including neurodevelopmental disorders. Epigenetics, a term describing mechanisms that cause changes in the chromosome state without affecting DNA sequences, is suggested to be the underlying mechanism, according to the DOHaD hypothesis. Moreover, many neurodevelopmental disorders are also related to epigenetic abnormalities. Experimental and epidemiological studies suggest that exposure to prenatal environmental toxicants is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, there is also evidence that environmental toxicants can result in epigenetic alterations, notably DNA methylation. In this review, we first focus on the relationship between neurodevelopmental disorders and environmental toxicants, in particular maternal smoking, plastic-derived chemicals (bisphenol A and phthalates), persistent organic pollutants, and heavy metals. We then review studies showing the epigenetic effects of those environmental factors in humans that may affect normal neurodevelopment.

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