Genomic imprinting refers to the epigenetic mechanism that results in the mono-allelic expression of a subset of genes in a parent-of-origin manner. These haploid genes are highly active in the placenta and are functionally implicated in the appropriate development of the fetus. Furthermore, the epigenetic marks regulating imprinted expression patterns are established early in development. These characteristics make genomic imprinting a potentially useful biomarker for environmental insults, especially during the in utero or early development stages, and for health outcomes later in life. Herein, we critically review the current literature regarding environmental influences on imprinted genes and summarize findings that suggest that imprinted loci are sensitive to known teratogenic agents, such as alcohol and tobacco, as well as less established factors with the potential to manipulate the in utero environment, including assisted reproductive technology. Finally, we discuss the potential of genomic imprinting to serve as an environmental sensor during early development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Environmental Health Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • early development
  • environmental exposures
  • epigenetic regulation
  • genomic imprinting
  • placenta


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