Semin Reprod Med 2009; 27(5): 351-357
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1237423
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Epigenetics: Definition, Mechanisms and Clinical Perspective

Cathérine Dupont1 , 2 , D. Randall Armant1 , 3 , Carol A. Brenner1 , 2
  • 1Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
  • 2Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
  • 3Program in Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
26 August 2009 (online)


A vast array of successive epigenetic modifications ensures the creation of a healthy individual. Crucial epigenetic reprogramming events occur during germ cell development and early embryogenesis in mammals. As highlighted by the large offspring syndrome with in vitro conceived ovine and bovine animals, any disturbance during germ cell development or early embryogenesis has the potential to alter epigenetic reprogramming. Therefore the complete array of human assisted reproductive technology (ART), starting from ovarian hormonal stimulation to embryo uterine transfer, could have a profound impact on the epigenetic state of human in vitro produced individuals. Although some investigators have suggested an increased incidence of epigenetic abnormalities in in vitro conceived children, other researchers have refuted these allegations. To date, multiple reasons can be hypothesized why irrefutable epigenetic alterations as a result of ART have not been demonstrated yet.


Carol A BrennerPh.D. 

Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Physiology, CS Mott Center for Human Growth and Development, Wayne State University, School of Medicine

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