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      Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse

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          Abstract

          Maternal care influences hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function in the rat through epigenetic programming of glucocorticoid receptor expression. In humans, childhood abuse alters HPA stress responses and increases the risk of suicide. We examined epigenetic differences in a neuron-specific glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) promoter between postmortem hippocampus obtained from suicide victims with a history of childhood abuse and those from either suicide victims with no childhood abuse or controls. We found decreased levels of glucocorticoid receptor mRNA, as well as mRNA transcripts bearing the glucocorticoid receptor 1F splice variant and increased cytosine methylation of an NR3C1 promoter. Patch-methylated NR3C1 promoter constructs that mimicked the methylation state in samples from abused suicide victims showed decreased NGFI-A transcription factor binding and NGFI-A-inducible gene transcription. These findings translate previous results from rat to humans and suggest a common effect of parental care on the epigenetic regulation of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor expression.

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          Most cited references37

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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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            Reversal of maternal programming of stress responses in adult offspring through methyl supplementation: altering epigenetic marking later in life.

            Stress responses in the adult rat are programmed early in life by maternal care and associated with epigenomic marking of the hippocampal exon 1(7) glucocorticoid receptor (GR) promoter. To examine whether such epigenetic programming is reversible in adult life, we centrally infused the adult offspring with the essential amino acid L-methionine, a precursor to S-adenosyl-methionine that serves as the donor of methyl groups for DNA methylation. Here we report that methionine infusion reverses the effect of maternal behavior on DNA methylation, nerve growth factor-inducible protein-A binding to the exon 1(7) promoter, GR expression, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and behavioral responses to stress, suggesting a causal relationship among epigenomic state, GR expression, and stress responses in the adult offspring. These results demonstrate that, despite the inherent stability of the epigenomic marks established early in life through behavioral programming, they are potentially reversible in the adult brain.
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              Maternal Care, Hippocampal Glucocorticoid Receptors, and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Responses to Stress

              D. Liu (1997)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Neuroscience
                Nat Neurosci
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1097-6256
                1546-1726
                March 2009
                February 22 2009
                March 2009
                : 12
                : 3
                : 342-348
                Article
                10.1038/nn.2270
                2944040
                19234457
                cd1f48ae-078b-4b3b-9de1-c97db4b0afda
                © 2009

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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