Endocrine disrupters, microRNAs, and primordial germ cells: a dangerous cocktail

Primordial germ cells are the embryonic precursors of gametes, differentiating by genetic and epigenetic factors, and consequently a critical window for the effects of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

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Volume 106, Issue 4, Pages 871-879


Miguel Angel Brieño-Enríquez, M.D., Ph.D., Eduardo Larriba, Ph.D., Jesús del Mazo, Ph.D.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are environmental pollutants that may change the homeostasis of the endocrine system, altering the differentiation of germ cells with consequences for reproduction. In mammals, germ cell differentiation begins with primordial germ cells (PGCs) during embryogenesis. Primordial germ cell development and gametogenesis are genetically regulated processes, in which the posttranscriptional gene regulation could be mediated by small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) such as microRNAs (miRNAs). Here, we review the deleterious effects of exposure during fetal life to EDCs mediated by deregulation of ncRNAs, and specifically miRNAs on PGC differentiation. Moreover, the environmental stress induced by exposure to some EDCs during the embryonic window of development could trigger reproductive dysfunctions transgenerationally transmitted by epigenetic mechanisms with the involvement of miRNAs expressed in germ line cells.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.