Caregiver maltreatment causes altered neuronal DNA methylation in female rodents

Development and Psychopathology
Jennifer Blaze, Tania L Roth


Negative experiences with a caregiver during infancy can result in long-term changes in brain function and behavior, but underlying mechanisms are not well understood. It is our central hypothesis that brain and behavior changes are conferred by early childhood adversity through epigenetic changes involving DNA methylation. Using a rodent model of early-life caregiver maltreatment (involving exposure to an adverse caregiving environment for postnatal days 1-7), we have previously demonstrated abnormal methylation of DNA associated with the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) gene in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of adult rats. The aim of the current study was to characterize Bdnf DNA methylation in specific cell populations within the mPFC. In the prefrontal cortex, there is approximately twice as many neurons as glia, and studies have recently shown differential and distinctive DNA methylation patterns in neurons versus nonneurons. Here, we extracted nuclei from the mPFC of adult animals that had experienced maltreatment and used fluorescence-activated cell sorting to isolate cell types before performing bisulfite sequencing to estimate methylation of cytosine-guanine sites. Our data indicate that early-life stress ...Continue Reading


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