Exposure to endocrine disruptors is associated with developmental defects. One compound of concern, to which humans are widely exposed, is bisphenol A (BPA). In model organisms, BPA exposure is linked to metabolic disorders, infertility, cancer, and behavior anomalies. Recently, BPA exposure has been linked to DNA methylation changes, indicating that epigenetic mechanisms may be relevant. We investigated effects of exposure on genomic imprinting in the mouse as imprinted genes are regulated by differential DNA methylation and aberrant imprinting disrupts fetal, placental, and postnatal development. Through allele-specific and quantitative real-time PCR analysis, we demonstrated that maternal BPA exposure during late stages of oocyte development and early stages of embryonic development significantly disrupted imprinted gene expression in embryonic day (E) 9.5 and 12.5 embryos and placentas. The affected genes included Snrpn, Ube3a, Igf2, Kcnq1ot1, Cdkn1c, and Ascl2; mutations and aberrant regulation of these genes are associated with imprinting disorders in humans. Furthermore, the majority of affected genes were expressed abnormally in the placenta. DNA methylation studies showed that BPA exposure significantly altered the methylation levels of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) including the Snrpn imprinting control region (ICR) and Igf2 DMR1. Moreover, exposure significantly reduced genome-wide methylation levels in the placenta, but not the embryo. Histological and immunohistochemical examinations revealed that these epigenetic defects were associated with abnormal placental development. In contrast to this early exposure paradigm, exposure outside of the epigenetic reprogramming window did not cause significant imprinting perturbations. Our data suggest that early exposure to common environmental compounds has the potential to disrupt fetal and postnatal health through epigenetic changes in the embryo and abnormal development of the placenta.
BPA is a widely used compound to which humans are exposed, and recent studies have demonstrated the association between exposure and adverse developmental outcomes in both animal models and humans. Unfortunately, exact mechanisms of BPA–induced health abnormalities are unclear, and elucidation of these relevant biological pathways is critical for understanding the public health implication of exposure. Recently, increasing data have demonstrated the ability of BPA to induce changes in DNA methylation, suggesting that epigenetic mechanisms are relevant. In this work, we study effects of BPA exposure on expression and regulation of imprinted genes in the mouse. Imprinted genes are regulated by differential DNA methylation, and they play critical roles during fetal, placental, and postnatal development. We have found that fetal exposure to BPA at physiologically relevant doses alters expression and methylation status of imprinted genes in the mouse embryo and placenta, with the latter tissue exhibiting the more significant changes. Additionally, abnormal imprinting is associated with defective placental development. Our data demonstrate that BPA exposure may perturb fetal and postnatal health through epigenetic changes in the embryo as well as through alterations in placental development.