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      Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior

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          Abstract

          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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          Most cited references 28

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          Phenotypic plasticity in the interactions and evolution of species.

          When individuals of two species interact, they can adjust their phenotypes in response to their respective partner, be they antagonists or mutualists. The reciprocal phenotypic change between individuals of interacting species can reflect an evolutionary response to spatial and temporal variation in species interactions and ecologically result in the structuring of food chains. The evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity has led to the success of organisms in novel habitats, and potentially contributes to genetic differentiation and speciation. Taken together, phenotypic responses in species interactions represent modifications that can lead to reciprocal change in ecological time, altered community patterns, and expanded evolutionary potential of species.
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            Histone acetyltransferases.

            Transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes occurs within a chromatin setting and is strongly influenced by nucleosomal barriers imposed by histone proteins. Among the well-known covalent modifications of histones, the reversible acetylation of internal lysine residues in histone amino-terminal domains has long been positively linked to transcriptional activation. Recent biochemical and genetic studies have identified several large, multisubunit enzyme complexes responsible for bringing about the targeted acetylation of histones and other factors. This review discusses our current understanding of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) or acetyltransferases (ATs): their discovery, substrate specificity, catalytic mechanism, regulation, and functional links to transcription, as well as to other chromatin-modifying activities. Recent studies underscore unexpected connections to both cellular regulatory processes underlying normal development and differentiation, as well as abnormal processes that lead to oncogenesis. Although the functions of HATs and the mechanisms by which they are regulated are only beginning to be understood, these fundamental processes are likely to have far-reaching implications for human biology and disease.
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              Maternal care during infancy regulates the development of neural systems mediating the expression of fearfulness in the rat.

              The mothers of infant rats show individual differences in the frequency of licking/grooming and arched-back nursing (LG-ABN) of pups that contribute to the development of individual differences in behavioral responses to stress. As adults, the offspring of mothers that exhibited high levels of LG-ABN showed substantially reduced behavioral fearfulness in response to novelty compared with the offspring of low LG-ABN mothers. In addition, the adult offspring of the high LG-ABN mothers showed significantly (i) increased central benzodiazepine receptor density in the central, lateral, and basolateral nuclei of the amygdala as well as in the locus ceruleus, (ii) increased alpha2 adrenoreceptor density in the locus ceruleus, and (iii) decreased corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) receptor density in the locus ceruleus. The expression of fear and anxiety is regulated by a neural circuitry that includes the activation of ascending noradrenergic projections from the locus ceruleus to the forebrain structures. Considering the importance of the amygdala, notably the anxiogenic influence of CRH projections from the amygdala to the locus ceruleus, as well as the anxiolytic actions of benzodiazepines, for the expression of behavioral responses to stress, these findings suggest that maternal care during infancy serves to "program" behavioral responses to stress in the offspring by altering the development of the neural systems that mediate fearfulness.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Neuroscience
                Nat Neurosci
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1097-6256
                1546-1726
                August 2004
                June 27 2004
                August 2004
                : 7
                : 8
                : 847-854
                Article
                10.1038/nn1276
                15220929
                © 2004

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