Skip Navigation
National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesNational Institutes of Health
Increase text size Decrease text size Print this page

Environmental Genome Project

Program Description

DNA strands Many diseases are the outcome of a complex inter-relationship between multiple genetic and environmental factors. Research suggests that individual susceptibility is influenced more by certain genes than by exposure to environmental agents. To better understand how individuals differ in their susceptibility to environmental agents and how these susceptibilities change over time, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) developed the Environmental Genome Project (EGP) in 1997. The long-term goal of the EGP is to characterize how specific human genetic variations, or polymorphisms, contribute to environmentally induced disease susceptibility.

The EGP identified a group of human genes that are likely to influence the outcome of environmental exposures. Polymorphic variants in these “environmentally responsive” genes are being identified by examining the sequence of DNA base pairs (sequencing) in a predefined set of human DNA samples representing the diversity of the United States. To determine which gene variants are correlated with increase or decreased risk of disease, researchers within the EGP have characterized the functional significance of specific gene variants. Due to the complexity of the research question, the EGP includes initiatives in four major research areas:

  • SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) Discovery and GeneSNPs Database
    The NIEHS, through a contract with the University of Washington, is sequencing a list of over 600 prioritized environmentally relevant genes thought to play a role in susceptibility to environmental exposures in a panel of 95 individuals representing the ethnic diversity found in the United States. SNP data obtained through this sequencing effort is transferred to the University of Utah, where it is displayed graphically on the GeneSNPs Database. This web resource, funded by the NIEHS, integrates gene, sequence, and SNP data into individually annotated gene models.

  • Comparative Mouse Genomics Centers Consortium
    This consortium of Academic Research Centers was established to develop important mouse models to study the functional significance of human DNA polymorphisms, primarily within the prioritized DNA repair and cell cycle control pathways.

  • Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Genomic Research
    The ELSI program seeks to bring together community groups, environmental health researchers, and behavioral/social scientists to better understand the ethical, legal and social implications of environmental health research.

The information gathered in these four areas will help build an understanding of the complex interrelationships between environmental exposure, genetic susceptibility, and human disease.

Program Contact

Gwen Collman, Ph.D. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health
This page URL:
NIEHS website:
Email the Web Manager at
Last Reviewed: February 06, 2009