Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 349–355

Environmental chemical stressors as epigenome modifiers: a new horizon in assessment of toxicological effects

Review Environmental Chemistry

DOI: 10.1007/s11434-013-0007-6

Cite this article as:
Shen, H., Martin, F.L. & Su, Y. Chin. Sci. Bull. (2014) 59: 349. doi:10.1007/s11434-013-0007-6


In eukaryotic cells, chromatin transformation from euchromatin into heterochromatin as a means of controlling gene expression and replication has been known as the “accessibility hypothesis”. The interplay of epigenetic changes including histone modifications, DNA methylation, RNA interference (RNAi) and other functional epigenetic components are intricate. It is believed that these changes are well-programmed, inherited and can be modified by environmental contaminant stressors. Environmentally-driven epigenetic alterations during development, e.g. embryonic, foetal or neonatal stage, may influence disease susceptibility in adulthood. Therefore, understanding how epigenome modifications develop in response to environmental chemicals and, how epigenetic-xenobiotic interactions influence human health will shed new insights into gene-environment interactions in the epidemiology of several diseases including cancer. In this review, we consider studies of chemical modifiers including nutritional and xenobiotic effects on epigenetic components in vitro or in vivo. By examining the most-studied epigenome modifications and how their respective roles are interlinked, we highlight the central role of xenbiotic-modified epigenetic mechanisms. A major requirement will be to study and understand effects following environmentally-relevant exposures. We suggest that the study of epigenetic toxicology will open up new opportunities to devise strategies for the prevention or treatment of at-risk populations.


DNA methylation Epigenetics Environmental stressor Epigenetic toxicology Histone modifications Noncoding RNA (ncRNA) 

Supplementary material

11434_2013_7_MOESM1_ESM.doc (310 kb)
Table S1 Effects of environment factors on histone modification and chromatin remodelling. Table S2 Effects of environment factors on global DNA and gene promoter methylation. Table S3 Effects of environment factors on the alteration of micro-RNA profile (DOC 320 kb)

Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXiamenChina
  2. 2.Centre for Biophotonics, Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster UniversityLancashireUK
  3. 3.Department of Preventive MedicineSchool of Public Health of Xiamen UniversityXiamenChina

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