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      Genome-wide methylation in alcohol use disorder subjects: implications for an epigenetic regulation of the cortico-limbic glucocorticoid receptors (NR3C1)

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          Abstract

          Environmental factors, including substance abuse and stress, cause long-lasting changes in the regulation of gene expression in the brain via epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation. We examined genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in the prefrontal cortex (PFC, BA10) of 25 pairs of control and individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), using the Infinium® MethylationEPICBeadChip. We identified 5,254 differentially methylated CpGs ( p nominal<0.005). Bioinformatic analyses highlighted biological processes containing genes related to stress adaptation, including the glucocorticoid receptor (encoded by NR3C1). Considering that alcohol is a stressor, we focused our attention on differentially methylated regions of the NR3C1 gene and validated the differential methylation of several genes in the NR3C1 network. Chronic alcohol drinking results in a significant increased methylation of the NR3C1 exon variant 1 H, with a particular increase in the levels of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine over 5-methylcytosine. These changes in DNA methylation were associated with reduced NR3C1 mRNA and protein expression levels in PFC as well as other cortico-limbic regions of AUD subjects when compared to controls. Furthermore, we show that the expression of several stress-responsive genes (e.g., CRF, POMC, FKBP5) is altered in the PFC of AUD subjects. These stress-response genes were also changed in the hippocampus, a region that is highly susceptible to stress. These data suggest that alcohol-dependent aberrant DNA methylation of NR3C1 and consequent changes in other stress-related genes might be fundamental in the pathophysiology of AUD and lay the groundwork for treatments targeting the epigenetic mechanisms regulating NR3C1 in AUD.

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          Most cited references 40

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          Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior.

          Here we report that increased pup licking and grooming (LG) and arched-back nursing (ABN) by rat mothers altered the offspring epigenome at a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene promoter in the hippocampus. Offspring of mothers that showed high levels of LG and ABN were found to have differences in DNA methylation, as compared to offspring of 'low-LG-ABN' mothers. These differences emerged over the first week of life, were reversed with cross-fostering, persisted into adulthood and were associated with altered histone acetylation and transcription factor (NGFI-A) binding to the GR promoter. Central infusion of a histone deacetylase inhibitor removed the group differences in histone acetylation, DNA methylation, NGFI-A binding, GR expression and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses to stress, suggesting a causal relation among epigenomic state, GR expression and the maternal effect on stress responses in the offspring. Thus we show that an epigenomic state of a gene can be established through behavioral programming, and it is potentially reversible.
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            Dynamic DNA methylation programs persistent adverse effects of early-life stress.

            Adverse early life events can induce long-lasting changes in physiology and behavior. We found that early-life stress (ELS) in mice caused enduring hypersecretion of corticosterone and alterations in passive stress coping and memory. This phenotype was accompanied by a persistent increase in arginine vasopressin (AVP) expression in neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and was reversed by an AVP receptor antagonist. Altered Avp expression was associated with sustained DNA hypomethylation of an important regulatory region that resisted age-related drifts in methylation and centered on those CpG residues that serve as DNA-binding sites for the methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). We found that neuronal activity controlled the ability of MeCP2 to regulate activity-dependent transcription of the Avp gene and induced epigenetic marking. Thus, ELS can dynamically control DNA methylation in postmitotic neurons to generate stable changes in Avp expression that trigger neuroendocrine and behavioral alterations that are frequent features in depression.
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              Complete pipeline for Infinium(®) Human Methylation 450K BeadChip data processing using subset quantile normalization for accurate DNA methylation estimation.

              Huge progress has been made in the development of array- or sequencing-based technologies for DNA methylation analysis. The Illumina Infinium(®) Human Methylation 450K BeadChip (Illumina Inc., CA, USA) allows the simultaneous quantitative monitoring of more than 480,000 CpG positions, enabling large-scale epigenotyping studies. However, the assay combines two different assay chemistries, which may cause a bias in the analysis if all signals are merged as a unique source of methylation measurement. We confirm in three 450K data sets that Infinium I signals are more stable and cover a wider dynamic range of methylation values than Infinium II signals. We evaluated the methylation profile of Infinium I and II probes obtained with different normalization protocols and compared these results with the methylation values of a subset of CpGs analyzed by pyrosequencing. We developed a subset quantile normalization approach for the processing of 450K BeadChips. The Infinium I signals were used as 'anchors' to normalize Infinium II signals at the level of probe coverage categories. Our normalization approach outperformed alternative normalization or correction approaches in terms of bias correction and methylation signal estimation. We further implemented a complete preprocessing protocol that solves most of the issues currently raised by 450K array users. We developed a complete preprocessing pipeline for 450K BeadChip data using an original subset quantile normalization approach that performs both sample normalization and efficient Infinium I/II shift correction. The scripts, being freely available from the authors, will allow researchers to concentrate on the biological analysis of data, such as the identification of DNA methylation signatures.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                9607835
                20545
                Mol Psychiatry
                Mol. Psychiatry
                Molecular psychiatry
                1359-4184
                1476-5578
                13 April 2019
                25 June 2019
                26 December 2019
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics, Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago;
                [2 ]Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Chicago (IL) 60612 USA
                [3 ]High-Performance Biological Computing, Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Prof. Alessandro Guidotti, Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics, Psychiatric Institute - Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1601 West Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60612, Phone: +1 (312) 355-5534, Fax: +1 (312) 413-4569, aguidott@ 123456uic.edu
                Article
                NIHMS1526900
                10.1038/s41380-019-0449-6
                6930366
                31239533

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                Molecular medicine

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