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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2005 Oct-Dec;26(3-4):139-62. Epub 2005 Nov 21.

Maternal programming of steroid receptor expression and phenotype through DNA methylation in the rat.

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McGill Program for the Study of Behavior, Genes and Environment, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


Increased levels of pup licking/grooming and arched-back nursing by rat mothers over the first week of life alter the epigenome at a glucocorticoid receptor gene promoter in the hippocampus of the offspring. Differences in the DNA methylation pattern between the offspring of High and Low licking/grooming--arched-back mothers emerge over the first week of life, are reversed with cross-fostering, persist into adulthood and are associated with altered histone acetylation and transcription factor (NGFI-A) binding to the glucocorticoid receptor promoter. Central infusion of the adult offspring with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A removes the previously defined epigenomic group differences in histone acetylation, DNA methylation, NGFI-A binding, glucocorticoid receptor expression, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress, thus suggesting a causal relation between the epigenomic state, glucocorticoid receptor expression and the effects of maternal care on stress responses in the offspring. These findings demonstrate that an epigenomic state of a gene can be established through a behavioral mode of programming and that in spite of the inherent stability of this epigenomic mark, it is dynamic and potentially reversible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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