<figcaption> Credit: Courtesy of Michael Skinner</figcaption>
Credit: Courtesy of Michael Skinner

The paper:
M.D. Anway et al., "Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility," Science, 308:1466-9, 2005. (Cited in 112 papers)

The finding:
A group led by Michael Skinner from Washington State University briefly exposed pregnant female rats to endocrine disruptors and found sperm defects in the F1 generation of male rats, which were passed through the male germ line to the F4 generation. Offspring of treated rats also had DNA methylation differences. "Potentially this transgenerational epigenetic mechanism could be how the environment is influencing disease," says Skinner.

The significance:
The study provided clear evidence of multigenerational effects of environmental exposure, says Andrea Gore, from University of Texas, Austin, who has since collaborated with Skinner's group.

The catch:
Doses used in the study were higher than those seen in the environment, the authors note. "All bets are off when you extrapolate the findings"...

Skinner's summary of the data:


Effect (for each generation)

Spermatogenic cell death

increased 300%

Sperm number

decreased 30%

Male infertility

approximately 10%

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?