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Your Environment. Your Health.

BPA Exposure Triggers Epigenetic Changes That Alter Metabolism

Cheryl Walker, Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
U01ES026719, P30ES030285, R01ES023206

NIEHS grantees showed that early life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can trigger epigenetic changes that lead to metabolic dysfunction later in life. Epigenetic changes, which alter the way genetic information and proteins are expressed without directly changing DNA, represent an important and sensitive underlying mechanism by which metabolism can be reprogrammed by BPA during critical developmental periods.

The researchers exposed rats to BPA on postnatal days one, three, and five, and compared them with unexposed rats. Later, at 240 days old, the rats were split into groups that received either normal food or a high-fat diet. At one year of age, the rats were evaluated for changes in epigenetics and protein expression in the liver, an organ that plays an important role in metabolism.

Male rats exposed to BPA had epigenetic changes characteristic of older livers, which suggested premature epigenetic aging. Compared with controls, the exposed rats also had increased triglycerides and cholesterol, along with changes in gene expression related to cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism.

According to the authors, early life is a sensitive period for epigenetic modifications related to metabolism. Such changes can persist long after the initial exposure. Some of these changes may remain silent until triggered by a later life event, such as a high-fat diet, to drive metabolic dysfunction.

Citation: Trevino LS, Dong J, Kaushal A, Katz TA, Jangid RK, Robertson MJ, Grimm SL, Ambati CS, Putluri V, Cox AR, Kim KH, May TD, Gallo MR, Moore DD, Hartig SM, Foulds CE, Putluri N, Coarfa C, Walker CL. 2020. Epigenome environment interactions accelerate epigenomic aging and unlock metabolically restricted epigenetic reprogramming in adulthood. Nat Commun 11(1):2316.

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