Parental effects of endocrine disrupting compounds in aquatic wildlife: Is there evidence of transgenerational inheritance?

The effects of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) on aquatic wildlife are increasingly being recognized for their complexity. Investigators have detected alterations at multiple levels of biological organization in offspring exposed to EDCs through the blood or germ line of the parents, suggesting that generational consequences of EDCs are evident. Exposure to EDCs through the parents is concerning because if the resulting phenotype of the offspring is heritable and affects fitness, then evolutionary consequences may be evident. This review summarizes the evidence for transgenerational effects of EDCs in aquatic wildlife and illustrates cases where alterations appear to be transmitted maternally, paternally, or parentally. The literature indicates that EDC exposure to the parents induces developmental, physiological, endocrinological, and behavioral changes as well as increased mortality of offspring raised in clean environments. What is lacking, however, is a clear demonstration of heritable transgenerational effects in aquatic wildlife. Therefore, it is not known if the parental effects are the result of developmental or phenotypic plasticity or if the altered phenotypes are durably passed to subsequent generations. Epigenetic changes to gene regulation are discussed as a possible mechanism responsible for EDC induced parental effects. Additional research is needed to evaluate if heritable effects of EDCs are evident in aquatic wildlife, as has been demonstrated for terrestrial mammals.

Adam R. Schwindt, General and Comparative Endocrinology, Volume 219, Pages 152–164, August 2015

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