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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior.

Here we report that increased pup licking and grooming (LG) and arched-back nursing (ABN) by rat mothers altered the offspring epigenome at a glucocorticoid receptor ( GR) gene promoter in the hippocampus. Offspring of mothers that showed high levels of LG and ABN were found to have differences in DNA methylation, as compared to offspring of 'low-LG-ABN' mothers. These differences emerged over the first week of life, were reversed with cross-fostering, persisted into adulthood and were associated with altered histone acetylation and transcription factor (NGFI-A) binding to the GR promoter. Central infusion of a histone deacetylase inhibitor removed the group differences in histone acetylation, DNA methylation, NGFI-A binding, GR expression and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses to stress, suggesting a causal relation among epigenomic state, GR expression and the maternal effect on stress responses in the offspring. Thus we show that an epigenomic state of a gene can be established through behavioral programming, and it is potentially reversible.[1]


  1. Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Weaver, I.C., Cervoni, N., Champagne, F.A., D'Alessio, A.C., Sharma, S., Seckl, J.R., Dymov, S., Szyf, M., Meaney, M.J. Nat. Neurosci. (2004) [Pubmed]
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