Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 426–438 | Cite as

Sexually Dimorphic Effects of Early-Life Exposures to Endocrine Disruptors: Sex-Specific Epigenetic Reprogramming as a Potential Mechanism

  • Carolyn McCabe
  • Olivia S. Anderson
  • Luke Montrose
  • Kari Neier
  • Dana C. Dolinoy
Synthetic Chemicals and Health (J Herbstman and T James-Todd, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Synthetic Chemicals and Health


Purpose of Review

The genetic material of every organism exists within the context of regulatory networks that govern gene expression—collectively called the epigenome. Animal models and human birth cohort studies have revealed key developmental periods that are important for epigenetic programming and vulnerable to environmental insults. Thus, epigenetics represent a potential mechanism through which sexually dimorphic effects of early-life exposures such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) manifest.

Recent Findings

Several animal studies, and to a lesser extent human studies, have evaluated life-course sexually dimorphic health effects following developmental toxicant exposures; many fewer studies, however, have evaluated epigenetics as a mechanism mediating developmental exposures and later outcomes.


To evaluate epigenetic reprogramming as a mechanistic link of sexually dimorphic early-life EDCs exposures, the following criteria should be met: (1) well-characterized exposure paradigm that includes relevant windows for developmental epigenetic reprogramming; (2) evaluation of sex-specific exposure-related epigenetic change; and (3) observation of a sexually dimorphic phenotype in either childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.


Lead (Pb) Bisphenol A (BPA) Epigenetics Sexually dimorphic effects Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) 


Funding Information

Kari Neier was supported by training grant T32 079342 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) while preparing this manuscript, and Luke Montrose was supported by T32 ES007062 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This work was also supported by the University of Michigan (UM) NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center P01 ES022844/RD83543601, the Michigan Lifestage Environmental Exposures and Disease (M-LEEaD) NIEHS Core Center (P30 ES017885),

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn McCabe
    • 1
  • Olivia S. Anderson
    • 1
  • Luke Montrose
    • 2
  • Kari Neier
    • 2
  • Dana C. Dolinoy
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Nutritonal SciencesUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Health SciencesUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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