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Your Environment. Your Health.

Environmental Exposures Influence Behavior of Later Generations

David Crews, Ph.D., Michael K. Skinner, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin, Washington State University
NIEHS Grants R21ES017538, R01ES012974


A new NIEHS-funded study shows that animals whose ancestors were exposed to a fungicide have a more profound reaction to stress than the offspring of unexposed animals. The work demonstrates that an ancestor’s exposure can influence the stress response of future generations.


The authors of the study used a systems biology approach by examining genetic and molecular changes in the brain as well as behavior. They exposed gestating female rats to the fungicide vinclozolin and later performed testing on the third generation of offspring.


The third generation offspring from the exposed rats showed differences in physiology and metabolic activity compared to descendants of unexposed rats. When exposed to stress during adolescence, the offspring of exposed rats had greater anxiety, sensitivity to stress, and more activity in stress-related regions of the brain.


Citation: Crews D, Gillette R, Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK. 2012. Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118514109 [Online 21 May 2012].

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