Interactions between environmental exposures and the microbiome: Implications for fetal programming

Elsevier, Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research, Volume 13, August 2020
Banerjee S., Suter M.A., Aagaard K.M.
Decades of population-based health outcomes data highlight the importance of understanding how environmental exposures in pregnancy affect maternal and neonatal outcomes. Animal model research and epidemiological studies have revealed that such exposures are able to alter fetal programming through stable changes in the epigenome, including altered DNA methylation patterns and histone modifications in the developing fetus and infant. It is similarly known that while microbes can biotransform environmental chemicals via conjugation and deconjugation, specific exposures can also alter the community profile and function of the human microbiome. In this review, we consider how alterations to the maternal and or fetal/infant microbiome through environmental exposures could directly and indirectly alter fetal programming. We highlight two specific environmental exposures, cadmium (Cd) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and outline their effects on the developing fetus and the perinatal (maternal and fetal/infant) microbiome. We further consider how chemical exposures in the setting of natural disasters may be of particular importance to environmental health.