Genetic and epigenetic influence on the response to environmental particulate matter

Hong Ji, Gurjit K Khurana Hershey
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2012, 129 (1): 33-41
Ambient air pollution, including particulate matter (PM) and gaseous pollutants, represents important environmental exposures that adversely affect human health. Because of their heritable and reversible nature, epigenetic modifications provide a plausible link between the environment and alterations in gene expression that might lead to disease. Epidemiologic evidence supports that environmental exposures in childhood affect susceptibility to disease later in life, supporting the belief that epigenetic changes can affect ongoing development and promote disease long after the environmental exposure has ceased. Indeed, allergic disorders often have their roots in early childhood, and early exposure to PM has been strongly associated with the subsequent development of asthma. The purpose of this review is to summarize recent findings on the genetic and epigenetic regulation of responses to ambient air pollutants, specifically respirable PM, and their association with the development of allergic disorders. Understanding these epigenetic biomarkers and how they integrate with genetic influences to translate the biologic effect of particulate exposure is critical to developing novel preventative and therapeutic strategies for allergic disorders.

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