Purpose of review
Children are more susceptible to exposures in utero
and during early childhood that may result in developmental problems and chronic diseases. Novel discoveries in the field of molecular epidemiology that can help explain susceptibility to exposures and disease will be demonstrated using the multifunctional enzyme paraoxonase 1 (PON1) as an example.
The broad PON1 variability in humans, partly due to differences in genetics and age, can confer differential susceptibility
because this enzyme can detoxify organophosphate pesticides and has antioxidant properties. Epigenetics plays a significant role in the mediation of the effects of environmental exposure on human health and is hypothesized to be a major contributing factor to the early-life origins of adult disease. Studies highlighted in this review demonstrate the relationship of PON1
polymorphisms with microRNA binding in addition to a link between DNA methylation in the transcriptional regulatory region with changes in PON1 enzyme levels. Other important methodologies such as ancestry informative markers and lactonase activity can enhance studies involving PON1.
This PON1 model demonstrates that integrating genetic and epigenetic factors, as well as other novel methodologies, can improve our understanding of important susceptibility factors linked to pediatric disease.