2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is an extremely toxic, persistent environmental contaminant that disrupts normal development in laboratory animals. In our earlier study, we found that exposure of preimplantation embryos to TCDD markedly induced cytochrome P4501A1 mRNA at the blastocyst stage. In the present study, to determine whether exposure of preimplantation embryos to TCDD affects fetal growth, we exposed preimplantation embryos to TCDD from the 1-cell stage to the blastocyst stage and then transferred them to unexposed recipient mice. On Embryonic Day 14, the fetuses exposed to TCDD during the preimplantation stage weighed less than the fetuses in the unexposed control group. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that exposure of preimplantation embryos to TCDD tended to decrease the expression levels of the imprinted genes H19 and Igf2 (insulin-like growth factor 2 gene). Use of bisulfite genomic sequencing demonstrated that the methylation level of the 430- base pair H19/Igf2 imprint control region was higher in TCDD- exposed embryos and fetuses than in the controls, and methyltransferase activity was also higher in the TCDD-exposed embryos than in the controls. To our knowledge, the present study is the first to provide evidence that TCDD exposure at the preimplantation stage alters the genomic DNA methylation status of imprinted genes, influences the expression level of imprinted genes, and affects fetal development.
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