Potential roles of imprinted genes in the teratogenic effects of alcohol on the placenta, somatic growth, and the developing brain

Olivia R. Gutherz, Maya Deyssenroth, Qian Li, Ke Hao, Joseph L. Jacobson, Jia Chen, Sandra W. Jacobson, R. Colin Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Despite several decades of research and prevention efforts, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) remain the most common preventable cause of neurodevelopmental disabilities worldwide. Animal and human studies have implicated fetal alcohol-induced alterations in epigenetic programming as a chief mechanism in FASD. Several studies have demonstrated fetal alcohol-related alterations in methylation and expression of imprinted genes in placental, brain, and embryonic tissue. Imprinted genes are epigenetically regulated in a parent-of-origin-specific manner, in which only the maternal or paternal allele is expressed, and the other allele is silenced. The chief functions of imprinted genes are in placental development, somatic growth, and neurobehavior—three domains characteristically affected in FASD. In this review, we summarize the growing body of literature characterizing prenatal alcohol-related alterations in imprinted gene methylation and/or expression and discuss potential mechanistic roles for these alterations in the teratogenic effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. Future research is needed to examine potential physiologic mechanisms by which alterations in imprinted genes disrupt development in FASD, which may, in turn, elucidate novel targets for intervention. Furthermore, mechanistic alterations in imprinted gene expression and/or methylation in FASD may inform screening assays that identify individuals with FASD neurobehavioral deficits who may benefit from early interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113919
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Epigenetics
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Gene expression
  • Genomic imprinting
  • Growth
  • Imprinted genes
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Placenta
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure


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