Hormonal imprinting: Phylogeny, ontogeny, diseases and possible role in present-day human evolution

Research output: Review article

53 Citations (Scopus)


Hormonal (chemical) imprinting which was first observed (and named) by us in the seventies of the last century, is a general biological phenomenon which takes place when the developing receptor meets its target hormone for the first time. Under the effect of imprinting, receptors mature and reach their maximal binding capacity. It also influences the cells' hormone production and different functions depending on receptors and hormones. Hormonal imprinting is present already at the unicellular level causing the development of specific receptors and helping the easier recognition of useful or harmful surrounding molecules. The phenomenon is an important factor in the survival of the species, as the effect of imprinting is transmitted to the progeny cell generations. At the same time it possibly helps the selection of molecules which are suitable for acting as hormones in higher ranked animals. In mammals, hormonal imprinting takes place perinatally and determines the function of receptor-signal-transduction systems as well as hormone production for life. However, there are other critical imprinting periods for continuously developing cells. Excess of the target hormones or presence of foreign molecules which are able to bind to the receptors, provoke faulty imprinting in the critical periods with life-long morphological, biochemical, functional or behavioural consequences. As many receptor-bound foreign molecules are used as medical treatments and many such molecules are present around us and inside us as environmental pollutants, they - causing faulty imprinting - are able to predispose the (human) organism to cardiovascular, endocrine, metabolic and cancerous diseases. It seems likely that this effect is connected with disturbance of DNA methylation process in the critical periods of life. There are some signs of the transgenerational effect of faulty imprinting and this could be manifested in the evolution of humans by an epigenetic route.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCell biochemistry and function
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - jan. 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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