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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 28;103(9):3480-5. Epub 2006 Feb 16.

Maternal care effects on the hippocampal transcriptome and anxiety-mediated behaviors in the offspring that are reversible in adulthood.

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  • 1Douglas Hospital Research Center, Montréal, QC, Canada.


Early-life experience has long-term consequences on behavior and stress responsivity of the adult. We previously proposed that early-life experience results in stable epigenetic programming of glucocorticoid receptor gene expression in the hippocampus. The aim of this study was to examine the global effect of early-life experience on the hippocampal transcriptome and the development of stress-mediated behaviors in the offspring and whether such effects were reversible in adulthood. Adult offspring were centrally infused with saline vehicle, the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA), or the essential amino acid l-methionine. The animals were assessed in an unfamiliar open-field arena, and the hippocampal transcriptome of each animal was evaluated by microarray analysis. Here we report that TSA and methionine treatment reversed the effect of maternal care on open-field behavior. We identified >900 genes stably regulated by maternal care. A fraction of these differences in gene expression is reversible by either the histone deacetylase inhibitor TSA or the methyl donor l-methionine. These results suggest that early-life experience has a stable and broad effect on the hippocampal transcriptome and anxiety-mediated behavior, which is potentially reversible in adulthood.

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