This application addresses broad Challenge Area (15): Translational Science and specific Challenge Topic, 15- ES-101*: Effects of Environmental Exposures on Phenotypic Outcomes Using Non-human Models. The overall goal of this research proposal is to study transgenerational, epigenetic effects of endocrine- disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on neuroendocrine function. Environmental EDC exposures can result in permanent dysfunctions in reproductive development, impaired fertility, and hormonally-related disease states. Developing organisms, particularly fetuses and infants, are especially vulnerable to endocrine disruption. During these early life periods, hormones are responsible for normal development of the hypothalamus, the brain region that regulates endocrine and hormonal systems and is responsible for the control of adult reproductive physiology and behavior. Disruptions of these systems by environmental EDCs can interfere with the acquisition and maintenance of these processes, resulting in aberrant neuroendocrine development and a compromised adult phenotype. We propose that EDCs such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can effect these changes in the fetally exposed (F1) individuals through actions on steroid hormone receptor gene and protein expression in the hypothalamus. Additionally, effects may be transmitted to future generations (F2, F3) through transgenerational, epigenetic mechanisms. The proposed studies seek to understand the mechanisms by which fetal exposures to PCBs cause permanent imprinting changes on gene expression in the hypothalamus to cause adult dysfunction. We will also investigate how these effects are transmitted to subsequent generations. Our goals in the fetally-exposed (F1) generation are to measure effects of expression of genes for steroid hormone receptors in the hypothalamus of PCB vs. control animals (Aim 1);and to explore and identify how PCBs may cause epigenetic modifications to these genes through analyses of DNA methylation and histone modifications (Aim 2). Then, comparisons will be made among the F1, F2 and F3 generations of rats to determine the manifestation of transgenerational, epigenetic effects and to ascertain the mechanism for transmission (Aim 3). As a whole, these experiments are designed to provide mechanistic insight into endocrine disruption of hypothalamic function during critical developmental life stages, the latent manifestation of a disrupted adult phenotype, and the transmission of this trait to subsequent generations.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed studies on endocrine disruption are highly relevant to humans. The EDC chosen for the current proposal, PCBs are a persistent and continuing problem, as virtually all living humans have a detectable body burden of PCBs. Therefore, understanding the transgenerational epigenetic effects of PCBs in a rat model can provide information about public policy, prevention, and medical interventions in humans.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
NIH Challenge Grants and Partnerships Program (RC1)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-EMNR-C (58))
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Chadwick, Lisa
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University of Texas Austin
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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Mennigen, Jan A; Thompson, Lindsay M; Bell, Mandee et al. (2018) Transgenerational effects of polychlorinated biphenyls: 1. Development and physiology across 3 generations of rats. Environ Health 17:18
Walker, Deena M; Goetz, Benjamin M; Gore, Andrea C (2014) Dynamic postnatal developmental and sex-specific neuroendocrine effects of prenatal polychlorinated biphenyls in rats. Mol Endocrinol 28:99-115
Walker, Deena M; Kermath, Bailey A; Woller, Michael J et al. (2013) Disruption of reproductive aging in female and male rats by gestational exposure to estrogenic endocrine disruptors. Endocrinology 154:2129-43
Patisaul, Heather B; Sullivan, Alana W; Radford, Meghan E et al. (2012) Anxiogenic effects of developmental bisphenol A exposure are associated with gene expression changes in the juvenile rat amygdala and mitigated by soy. PLoS One 7:e43890
Walker, Deena M; Kirson, Dean; Perez, Lorenzo F et al. (2012) Molecular profiling of postnatal development of the hypothalamus in female and male rats. Biol Reprod 87:129
Crews, David; Gore, Andrea C (2011) Life imprints: living in a contaminated world. Environ Health Perspect 119:1208-10
Walker, Deena M; Gore, Andrea C (2011) Transgenerational neuroendocrine disruption of reproduction. Nat Rev Endocrinol 7:197-207
Gore, Andrea C; Walker, Deena M; Zama, Aparna M et al. (2011) Early life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals causes lifelong molecular reprogramming of the hypothalamus and premature reproductive aging. Mol Endocrinol 25:2157-68
Dickerson, Sarah M; Cunningham, Stephanie L; Gore, Andrea C (2011) Prenatal PCBs disrupt early neuroendocrine development of the rat hypothalamus. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 252:36-46
Dickerson, Sarah M; Cunningham, Stephanie L; Patisaul, Heather B et al. (2011) Endocrine disruption of brain sexual differentiation by developmental PCB exposure. Endocrinology 152:581-94

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