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Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

An Epigenomic and Transcriptomic Framework for Identifying Novel Modes of Action and Physiological Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in Shellfish

EPA Grant Number: FP917331
Title: An Epigenomic and Transcriptomic Framework for Identifying Novel Modes of Action and Physiological Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in Shellfish
Investigators: Gavery, Mackenzie R
Institution: University of Washington
EPA Project Officer: Cobbs-Green, Gladys M.
Project Period: September 21, 2011 through September 20, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Pesticides and Toxic Substances



Concern over human and wildlife health has brought increased attention to a group of emerging environmental contaminants referred to as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). Although progress has been made in describing the effects of these compounds, there still are gaps in the understanding of alternative modes of action and physiological effects outside of the reproductive axis, particularly in invertebrates. This research aims to characterize alternative modes of action of EDCs by utilizing molecular tools to examine epigenetic and physiological changes in Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) exposed to EDCs in the laboratory.


This research will consist of laboratory-controlled exposures of Pacific oysters to known EDCs (17a-ethinyl estradiol [EE2] and cadmium). High-resolution genome-wide DNA methylation profiling will be used to test the hypothesis that invertebrate DNA methylation patterns will be altered upon exposure to EDCs. An integration of traditional morphological as well as gene expression analysis will be used to assess physiological effects of EE2 and cadmium in this important bioindicator species.

Expected Results:

The successful completion of this research will be able to provide: (1) a deeper and broader understanding of the modes of action of endocrine disrupting compounds; (2) the first integrative study using epigenetics, transcriptomics and phenotypic analyses to evaluate the effects of EDCs in an aquatic invertebrate; and (3) a proof of concept framework, which can be applied to advance the study of the biological effects of EDCs in other aquatic species.

Potential to Further Environmental/ Human Health Protection

This research will increase understanding of both the modes of action and physiological effects of endocrine disrupting compounds to best evaluate risks and impacts to organismal health, population resilience and ecosystem structure. In addition, it is anticipated EDC exposure will produce unique epigenetic and gene expression “signatures” that are indicative of exposure and therefore can be utilized as early detection biomarkers.

Supplemental Keywords:

endocrine disrupting compounds, epigenetics, transcriptomics, toxicology, aquatic invertebrates, oysters, mode of action, biomarker, gene expression, bioindicator, cadmium, 17a-ethinyl estradiol

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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