Michele La Merrill

Michele La Merrill

Position Title
Associate Professor

Department of Environmental Toxicology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Genome Center
Comprehensive Cancer Center
Environmental Health Center

4245 Meyer Hall

Research Interests


The mission of La Merrill laboratory is to understand the mechanistic basis of environmental causes of endocrine diseases: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and breast cancer. Endocrine diseases are increasingly common worldwide and contribute to the leading causes of death worldwide, which are cardiovascular disease and cancer.

We consider vulnerability to endocrine disease that may result from genetic and epigenetic predispositions as well as environmental insults, especially during the exquisitely sensitive developmental period. The La Merrill lab investigates the epigenetic and gene regulatory mechanisms by which endocrine diseases develop in response to environmental pollution, aptly named endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The La Merrill laboratory conducts cellular, whole animal and human epidemiological studies to integrate human observations with mechanistic investigations. We believe this research approach will ultimately lead to improved disease prevention through primary prevention of exposure and secondarily through lifestyle- and pharmaceutical- interventions.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Epidemiology

Specialties / Focus

  • Animal Genomics


  • ETX 103A Biological Effects of Toxicants
  • ETX 198 Genes and the Environment

    Professional Societies

    • The Endocrine Society
    • The Society of Toxicology


    • 2008 PhD Toxicology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    • 2010 MPH Epidemiology Mount Sinai School of Medicine


    • Gordon R, Hunter K, La Merrill M, Sørensen P, Threadgill D, and Pomp D. Genotype x diet interactions in mice predisposed to mammary cancer: II. tumors and metastasis. Mammalian Genome, 2008, 19: 179-189, PMID18288525.
    • La Merrill M, Baston DS, Denison MS, Birnbaum LS, and Threadgill DW. Mouse breast cancer model-dependent changes in metabolic syndrome-associated phenotypes caused by maternal dioxin exposure and dietary fat. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2009, 296: E203-210, PMID18840765/PMCID:PMC2636987.
    • La Merrill M, Kuruvilla BS, Birnbaum LS, Pomp D, and Threadgill DW. Dietary fat alters pubertal body composition and P450 induction following maternal TCDD exposure in DBA/2J mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2009, 117: 1414-1419, PMID19750107/PMCID:PMC2737019.
    • La Merrill M*, Gordon R, Hunter K, Threadgill D, and Pomp D. Dietary fat alters pulmonary metastasis of mammary cancers through cancer autonomous and non-autonomous changes in gene expression. Clinical and Experimental Metastasis, 2010, 27: 107-116, PMID20151316.
    • La Merrill M, Harper R, Birnbaum LS, Cardiff RD, and Threadgill DW. Maternal TCDD along with a diet high in fat increases mammary cancer incidence in mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010, 118: 596-601 (Cover article and Science Selection), PMID20435547/PMCID:PMC2866672.
    • Gordon R, La Merrill M, Hunter K, Threadgill D, and Pomp D. Dietary fat-dependent transcriptional architecture and copy number alterations associated with modifiers of mammary cancer metastasis. Clinical and Experimental Metastasis, 2010, 27: 279-293, PMID20354763/PMCID: PMC439766.
    • La Merrill M*, Stein CR, Landrigan P, Engel SM, and Savitz DA. Prepregnancy body mass index, smoking during pregnancy, and infant birth weight. Annals of Epidemiology, 2011, 21: 413-420, PMID21421328/PMCID:PMC3090467.
    • La Merrill M* and Birnbaum LS.Childhood obesity and environmental chemicals. Invited by Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 2011, 78: 22-48, PMID:21259261/ PMCID:PMC3076189.
    • La Merrill M*, Torres-Sanchez L, Ruiz-Ramos R, López-Carrillo L, Cebrián Garcia M, and Chen J. The association between first trimester micronutrient intake, MTHFR genotypes, and global DNA methylation in pregnant women.  Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 2012, 25: 133-137, PMID21443409/PMCID:PMC3279137.
    • La Merrill M*, Cirillo PM, Terry MB, Krigbaum NY, Flom JD, and Cohn BA. Prenatal exposure to the pesticide DDT and hypertension diagnosed in women before age 50: a longitudinal birth cohort study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013, 121: 594-599, doi:10.1289/ehp.1205921, PMID 23591545/PMCID 3673196.
    • La Merrill M, Emond C, Kim MJ, Antignac JP, Le Bizec B, Clement K, Birnbaum LS, and Barouki R.Toxicological function of adipose tissue: focus on persistent organic pollutants. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013, 121: 413-420 (Science Selection), PMID:23221922/PMCID:PMC3569688.
    • La Merrill M*,Karey E, Moshier E, Lindtner C, La Frano MR, Newman JW, Buettner C. Perinatal exposure of mice to the pesticide DDT impairs energy expenditure and metabolism in adult female offspring. PLOS ONE, 2014, 9: e103337, PMCID: PMC4116186.
    • La Merrill MA*, Cirillo PM, Krigbaum NY, and Cohn BA. The impact of prenatal parental tobacco smoking on risk of diabetes mellitus in middle-aged women. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 2015, Feb 10:1-8, PMID25665487.
    • Cohn BA, La Merrill M, Krigbaum NY, Yeh G, Park JS, Zimmermann L, and Cirillo PM. DDT exposure in utero and breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2015, 8: 2865-2872, PMID 26079774.
    • Heindel J, Vom Saal FS, Blumberg B, Bovolin P, Calamandrei G, Ceresini G, Cohn BA, Fabbri E, Gioiosa L, Kassotis C, Legler J, La Merrill M, Rizzir L, Machtinger R, Mantovani A, Mendez MA, Montanini L, Molteni L, Nagel SC, Parmigiani S, Panzica G, Paterlini S, Pomatto V,Ruzzin J, Sartor G, Schug TT, Street ME, Suvorov A, Volpi R, Zoeller RT, Palanza P. Parma consensus statement on metabolic disruptors. Environmental Health, 2015, 14: 54-61, PMID: 26092037/PMCID:PMC4473834.
    • Ishikawa T, Graham JL, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, La Merrill MA*. Effect of DDT exposure on lipids and energy balance in obese Sprague-Dawley rats before and after weight loss. Toxicology Reports, 2015, 2: 990-995, PMID processing. Open Access.
    • La Merrill MA*, Sethi, S, Benard L, Moshier E, Haraldsson B, Buettner C. Perinatal DDT exposure induces hypertension and cardiac hypertrophy in adult mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2016,124:1722-1727, doi:10.1289/EHP164, PMID 27325568.
    • Green AJ, Graham JL, Gonzalez EA, La Frano MR, Petropoulou S-SE, Park J-S, Newman JW, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, La Merrill MA*. Perinatal triphenyl phosphate exposure accelerates type 2 diabetes onset and increases adipose accumulation in UCD-Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus rats. Invited special issue of Reproductive Toxicology “Developmental Basis of Health and Disease”, 2017, 68: 119-129, doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2016.07.009, PMID 27421578.
    • Gill JA, La Merrill MA*. An emerging role for epigenetic regulation of Pgc-1a expression in environmentally stimulated brown adipose thermogenesis, Environmental Epigenetics, 2017, 3:dvx009, doi:10.1093/eep/dvx009.
    • Cano-Sancho G, Smith A, La Merrill MA*. Triphenyl phosphate enhances adipogenic differentiation, glucose uptake and lipolysis via endocrine and noradrenergic mechanisms. In Vitro Toxicology, 2017, 40: 280-288, PMID 28163246.
    • Smith AM, Smith AT, La Merrill MA, Liaw J, Steinmaus C. 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid (2,4-D) and Risk of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A meta-analysis accounting for exposure levels. Annals of Epidemiology, 2017, 27: 281-289.
    • Cano-Sancho G, Salmon AG, La Merrill MA*. Association between exposure to p,p'-DDT and its metabolite p,p'-DDE with obesity: integrated systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2017, doi:10.1289/EHP527. Featured as an EHP Science Selection: doi:10.1289/EHP2545.
    • La Merrill MA*, Lind PM, Salihovic S, van Bavel B, Lind L. The association between p,p’-DDE levels and left ventricular hypertrophy is mainly mediated by obesity. Environmental Research, 2018, doi:10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.031.
    • Daniels SI, Chambers JC, Sanchez SS, La Merrill MA, Hubbard AE, Macherone A, McMullin M, Zhang L, Elliot P, Smith MT, Kooner J. Elevated levels of organochlorine pesticides in South Asian Immigrants are associated with an increased risk of diabetes. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 2018, doi:10.1210/js.2017-00480.
    • Mendrick DL, Diehl AM, Topor LS, Dietert RR, Will Y, La Merrill MA, Bouret S, Varma V, Hastings KL, Schug TT, Emeigh Hart SG, Burleson FG. Metabolic syndrome and associated diseases: from the bench to the clinic, Toxicological Sciences, 2018, 162: 36-42, doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfx233.
    • Eiserich JP, Ott SP, Kadir T, Morrissey BM, Hayakawa KA, La Merrill MA, Cross CE. Quantitative assessment of cyanide in cystic fibrosis sputum and its oxidative catabolism by hypochlorous acid. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2018,129:146-154. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2018.09.007, PMID 30213640.
    • Cohn BA, Cirillo PM, La Merrill MA. Correlation of body mass index with serum DDTs predicts lower risk of breast cancer before the age of 50: prospective evidence in the Child Health and Development Studies. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 2018, doi:10.1038/s41370-018-0072-7, PMID 30224754.
    • da Costa CS, Miranda-Alves L, La Merrill MA, Silva IV, Graceli JB.  The tributyltin leads to obesogenic mammary gland abnormalities in adult female rats. Toxicology Letters, 2019, 307: 59-71, doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2019.02.016.
    • Hu X, Li S, Cirrilo P, Krigbaum N, Tran V, Ishikawa T, La Merrill MA, Jones DP, Cohn B. Metabolome Wide Association Study of serum DDT and DDE in Pregnancy and Early Postpartum, Reproductive Toxicology, 2019, doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2019.05.059.
    • Azhagiya Singam ER, Tachachartvanich P, La Merrill MA, Smith MT, Durkin KA. Structural Dynamics of Agonist and Antagonist Binding to the Androgen Receptor, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 2019, 123, 7657-7666, doi:/10.1021/acs.jpcb.9b05654.
    • La Merrill MA*, Johnson CL, Smith MT, Kandula NR, Macherone A, Pennell KD, Kanaya AM. Exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and their relationship to hepatic fat and insulin insensitivity among Asian Indian immigrants in the United States. Environmental Science and Technology, 2019, 53,13906-13918, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b03373.
    • Elmore SE, La Merrill MA*. Oxidative phosphorylation impairment by DDT and DDE, Frontiers in Endocrinology, 2019, 10:1-8, doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00122.
    • La Merrill MA*, Vandenberg LN, Smith MT, Goodson W, Browne P, Patisaul HB, Guyton KZ, Kortenkamp A, Cogliano VJ, Woodruff TJ, Rieswijk L, Sone H, Korach KS, Gore AC, Zeise L, Zoeller TR. Consensus on the key characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a basis for hazard identification. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 2019, doi:10.1038/s41574-019-0273-8.