As the invited speaker for the 2023 NIEHS Hans L. Falk Memorial Lecture, Center member Marisa Bartolomei highlighted the contributions she and her research group at the University of Pennsylvania have made to the understanding of gene regulation and human development. Environmental factors and assisted reproductive technologies can alter the way genes are expressed in a developing embryo with potentially adverse effects later in life.
For example, Bartolomei described how she measured robust changes in DNA methylation in a long-term study of pregnant mice exposed to various doses of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA). The study was funded in part by the NIEHS Toxicant Exposures and Responses by Genomic and Epigenomic Regulators of Transcription (TaRGET) Program.
Today, Bartolomei investigates how specific environmental exposures disrupt imprinting and, ultimately, gene expression. She tracks these disruptions by looking at a process known as DNA methylation — the attachment of methyl tags to DNA to silence gene expression.