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Open AccessReview

Methylmercury Epigenetics

Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA
Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Toxics 2019, 7(4), 56;
Received: 11 July 2019 / Revised: 22 October 2019 / Accepted: 5 November 2019 / Published: 9 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue DNA Damage Response to Harmful Anthropogenic Substances)
Methylmercury (MeHg) has conventionally been investigated for effects on nervous system development. As such, epigenetic modifications have become an attractive mechanistic target, and research on MeHg and epigenetics has rapidly expanded in the past decade. Although, these inquiries are a recent advance in the field, much has been learned in regards to MeHg-induced epigenetic modifications, particularly in the brain. In vitro and in vivo controlled exposure studies illustrate that MeHg effects microRNA (miRNA) expression, histone modifications, and DNA methylation both globally and at individual genes. Moreover, some effects are transgenerationally inherited, as organisms not directly exposed to MeHg exhibited biological and behavioral alterations. miRNA expression generally appears to be downregulated consequent to exposure. Further, global histone acetylation also seems to be reduced, persist at distinct gene promoters, and is contemporaneous with enhanced histone methylation. Moreover, global DNA methylation appears to decrease in brain-derived tissues, but not in the liver; however, selected individual genes in the brain are hypermethylated. Human epidemiological studies have also identified hypo- or hypermethylated individual genes, which correlated with MeHg exposure in distinct populations. Intriguingly, several observed epigenetic modifications can be correlated with known mechanisms of MeHg toxicity. Despite this knowledge, however, the functional consequences of these modifications are not entirely evident. Additional research will be necessary to fully comprehend MeHg-induced epigenetic modifications and the impact on the toxic response. View Full-Text
Keywords: methylmercury (MeHg); epigenetics; microRNA (miRNA); histone modifications; DNA methylation; transgenerational inheritance methylmercury (MeHg); epigenetics; microRNA (miRNA); histone modifications; DNA methylation; transgenerational inheritance
MDPI and ACS Style

Culbreth, M.; Aschner, M. Methylmercury Epigenetics. Toxics 2019, 7, 56.

AMA Style

Culbreth M, Aschner M. Methylmercury Epigenetics. Toxics. 2019; 7(4):56.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Culbreth, Megan; Aschner, Michael. 2019. "Methylmercury Epigenetics" Toxics 7, no. 4: 56.

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