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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Jun 1;21(6):570-581. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyy006.

Involvement of Epigenetic Modifications of GABAergic Interneurons in Basolateral Amygdala in Anxiety-like Phenotype of Prenatally Stressed Mice.

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Department of Physiology, Nanjing Medical University, Jiangsu, China.



Prenatal stress is considered a risk factor for anxiety disorder. Downregulation in the expression of GABAergic gene, that is, glutamic acid decarboxylase 67, associated with DNA methyltransferase overexpression in GABAergic neurons has been regarded as a characteristic component of anxiety disorder. Prenatal stress has an adverse effect on the development of the basolateral amygdala, which is a key region in anxiety regulation. The aim of this study is to analyze the possibility of epigenetic alterations of GABAergic neurons in the basolateral amygdala participating in prenatal stress-induced anxiety.


Behavioral tests were used to explore the prenatal stress-induced anxiety behaviors of female adult mice. Real-time RT-PCR, western blot, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and electrophysiological analysis were employed to detect epigenetic changes of GABAergic system in the basolateral amygdala.


Prenatal stress mice developed an anxiety-like phenotype accompanied by a significant increase of DNA methyltransferase 1 and a reduced expression of glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 in the basolateral amygdala. Prenatal stress mice also showed the increased binding of DNA methyltransferase 1 and methyl CpG binding protein 2 to glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 promoter region. The decrease of glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 transcript was paralleled by an enrichment of 5-methylcytosine in glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 promoter regions. Electrophysiological study revealed the increase of postsynaptic neuronal excitability in the cortical-basolateral amygdala synaptic transmission of prenatal stress mice. 5-Aza-deoxycytidine treatment restored the increased synaptic transmission and anxiety-like behaviors in prenatal stress mice via improving GABAergic system.


The above results suggest that DNA epigenetic modifications of GABAergic interneurons in the basolateral amygdala participate in the etiology of anxiety-like phenotype in prenatal stress mice.

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