Instituto de Salud y Ambiente del Litoral (ISAL), Facultad de Bioquímica y Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional del Litoral - Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Santa Fe, Argentina. Electronic address: [Email]
Previously, we have shown that perinatal exposure to a glyphosate-based herbicide (GBH) induces implantation failures in rats. Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) is critical for successful implantation. ERα transcription is under the control of five promoters (E1, OT, O, ON, and OS), which yield different transcripts. Here, we studied whether perinatal exposure to a GBH alters uterine ERα gene expression and prompts epigenetic modifications in its regulatory regions during the preimplantation period. Pregnant rats (F0) were orally treated with 350 mg glyphosate/kg bw/day through food from gestational day (GD) 9 until weaning. F1 females were bred, and uterine samples were collected on GD5 (preimplantation period). ERα mRNA levels and its transcript variants were evaluated by RT-qPCR. Enzyme-specific restriction sites and predicted transcription factors were searched in silico in the ERα promoter regions to assess the methylation status using the methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes-PCR technique. Post-translational modifications of histones were studied by the chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. GBH upregulated the expression of total ERα mRNA by increasing the abundance of the ERα-O transcript variant. In addition, different epigenetic changes were detected in the O promoter. A decrease in DNA methylation was observed in one of the three sites evaluated in the O promoter. Moreover, histone H4 acetylation and histone H3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) were enriched in the O promoter in GBH-exposed rats, whereas H3K27me3 was decreased. All these alterations could account for the increase in ERα gene expression. Our findings show that perinatal exposure to a GBH causes long-term epigenetic disruption of the uterine ERα gene, which could be associated with the GBH-induced implantation failures.