Herst, Pauline Student

PhD student

Department of animal science,

Faculty of agriculture and food science,

Université Laval


Transgenerationnal epigenetic heredity Inuits Persistent organic pollutants Rat
: PhD

Elucidating the mystery of transgenerational inheritance: Possible mechanisms by which the Arctic environment changes the paternal genome and affects future generations

Pavillon Comtois

2425 rue de l'Agriculture, Université Laval, Québec (QC) G1V 0A6
(418) 656- 2131


Janice L. Bailey

Study level


MSc: Biomedical Sciences specialized in Developmental Biology and Oncology, for the faculty of Health, Medicine

Undergraduate:  Biology and Medical Laboratory Research for the faculty of Life Sciences, Zuyd University (Heerlen, The Netherlands)

Research project summary

POPs present a significant hazard to the health and cultures of the indigenous people of the Arctic including Aboriginal Canadians (Inuit), who are reliant on a traditional diet of foods from the land and ocean for their physical, cultural and spiritual necessities. Recent research indicates that paternal exposures can affect the child by the transmission of changed epigenetic marks to his offspring.

We hypothesize that prenatal exposure to environmentally-relevant Arctic POPs mixture causes epimutations in the sperm chromatin that are passed on through the paternal germ line in a transgenerational fashion; thereby, affecting embryo development, inducing birth defects and causing metabolic complications in future generations. In addition, we hypothesize that these sperm epimutations and associated transgenerational phenotypes can be reduced or prevented by the use of nutritional supplementation with folic acid. For my PhD research project, I will investigate whether components/marks of all three epigenetic mechanisms including the DNA methylome, histone modifications and the transcriptome, are modified by prenatal exposures of POPs, folic acid, POPs + folic acid in sperm. Therefore, the general objective can be divided into 4 sub-objectives including the following: (1) Examine the transcriptome of two-cell embryos sired by paternal lineages. (2) Examine whether early-life exposure to an environmentally-relevant Arctic POPs mixture alters the rat sperm methylome. (3) Determine the potential regulatory role of histone marks and/or histone variants in rat sperm from generations F1-F4. (4) Analyze the role of sperm RNA in epigenetic inheritance.