The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Endocrine-epigenetic mechanisms of disease induced by pregnancy exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals


Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Maternal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is ubiquitous, as nearly 100% of reproductive aged women in the United States have measurable levels of EDCs, including plasticizers (like phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA)) and perfluoroalkyl substances (like PFOA). Further, 90% of children have BPA and PFOA in their blood at birth. Our work previously identified that reproductive aged Tsimane’ women have higher urinary phthalate levels with increased global market integration. Since pregnancy is a critical window of susceptibility to EDCs and disease, research is needed to understand how EDC exposure increases health risks for pregnant women and infants, informing unique health risks of women and developmental origins of adult disease. To address these questions, mouse dams were exposed to a representative EDC mixture (atrazine, BPA, PFOA, and dioxin) to understand lifelong consequences for metabolic maternal health and developing infant nervous systems. Mothers developed glucose intolerance, insulin insensitivity, and elevated LDL and total serum cholesterol levels. Male offspring increased testosterone at birth reprogramming adult behavior: altering attention, impulsivity and social deficits. Early testosterone exposure also decreased serum testosterone and decreased striatal methylation profiles along estrogen receptor-alpha and imprinted genes in adulthood. These data provide mechanistic plausibility for human research on pregnancy exposure and increased risk to develop Type II diabetes in mothers and children’s neurobehavioral disorder risk in infants. Research is needed on how endocrine modulation reprograms epigenetics and lifelong health. Anthropologists and health scientists are uniquely suited to understand how low-dose EDC exposures impact health and development for mothers and children.

Supported by National Institutes of Health P30 ES001247 and T32 ES007026-3