Pollutants inducing epigenetic changes and diseases

Vivek Jagadeesan Sharavanan, Muthusaravanan Sivaramakrishnan, N. Sivarajasekar, N. Senthilrani, Ram Kothandan, Nirajan Dhakal, S. Sivamani, Pau Loke Show, Md Rabiul Awual, Mu Naushad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Pollution is a major issue impacting the health of life and ecosystems. In particular, some pollutants may alter gene expression by epigenetic mechanisms such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation, histone modifications, and microRNA (miRNA) expression. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes without alteration in the DNA sequence. In the healthy state, the coordinated actions of interconnected epigenetic factors are responsible for proper cell development and cell regulation. Epigenetic mechanisms are tissue-specific; hence, a pollutant may or may not cause an alteration depending on the type of tissue. Here we review mechanisms by which pollutants disrupt epigenetic factors. We focus on the impact of arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury, benzene, bisphenol A, dioxin, hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine and diethylstilbestrol. A list of diseases related to epigenetic factors and heavy metals exposure is provided.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)325-343
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Carcinogen
  • DNA methylation
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Epigenetics
  • Histone modifications
  • miRNA


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