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Brain Res. 2013 Oct 2;1533:26-36. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.08.005. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

DNA methylation markers in the postnatal developing rat brain.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA.


In spite of intense interest in how altered epigenetic processes including DNA methylation may contribute to psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, there is a limited understanding of how methylation processes change during early postnatal brain development. The present study used in situ hybridization to assess mRNA expression for the three major DNA methyltranserases (DNMTs)--DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b--in the developing rat brain at seven developmental timepoints: postnatal days (P) 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, 21, and 75. We also assessed 5-methylcytosine levels (an indicator of global DNA methylation) in selected brain regions during the first three postnatal weeks. DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b mRNAs are widely expressed throughout the adult and postnatal developing rat brain. Overall, DNMT mRNA levels reached their highest point in the first week of life and gradually decreased over the first three postnatal weeks within the hippocampus, amygdala, striatum, cingulate and lateral septum. Global DNA methylation levels did not follow this developmental pattern; methylation levels gradually increased over the first three postnatal weeks in the hippocampus, and remained stable in the developing amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Our results contribute to a growing understanding of how DNA methylation markers unfold in the developing brain, and highlight how these developmental processes may differ within distinct brain regions.


Amygdala; DNA methylation; DNA methyltransferase; Hippocampus; In situ hybridization; Neurodevelopment

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