Reelin and glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67) mRNAs and protein levels are substantially reduced in postmortem brains of patients with schizophrenia. Increasing evidence suggests that the observed down-regulation of reelin and GAD67 gene expression may be caused by dysfunction of the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms operative in cortical GABAergic interneurons.
Formation of a phenotype during development of the human being may result from a specific dialogue between genes and environmental factors. Expression of particular genes is controlled not only on the transcriptional level but also on the level of accessibility of genetic information through the influence for remodelling of chromatin. We characterized Rett syndrome and its molecular basis as an example of the relation between genes and environment and their influence on epigenetic processes determining the gene expression.
The epigenetic down-regulation of genes is emerging as a possible underlying mechanism of the GABAergic neuron dysfunction in schizophrenia. For example, evidence has been presented to show that the promoters associated with reelin and GAD67 are down-regulated as a consequence of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT)-mediated hypermethylation. Using neuronal progenitor cells to study this regulation, we have previously demonstrated that DNMT inhibitors coordinately increase reelin and GAD67 mRNAs.
Subtle alterations in synaptic function contribute to the pathophysiology associated with several neuropsychiatric diseases. Modifications in synaptic vesicle trafficking can cause frequency-dependent changes in neurotransmission, alter information coding in neural circuits, and affect long-term plasticity.
Mutations of MECP2 (methyl-CpG binding protein 2) cause Rett syndrome (RTT). Mouse genetics studies have demonstrated that the lack of functional MeCP2 in the central nervous system leads to RTT-like symptoms, which could be reversed upon MeCP2 restoration. MeCP2 recognizes methylated CpG dinucleotides and may interact with other chromatin remodeling proteins. Although traditionally thought to be a transcription repressor, MeCP2 may also be involved in transcription activation.
Early-life stress induces persistent memory traces on our genes and programs the life-long risk for depression. Epigenetic marking of the arginine vasopressin (AVP) gene by early-life stress in mice underpins sustained expression and increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, triggering endocrine and behavioral alterations that are frequent features in depression. This epigenetic memory evolves in two steps coordinated by the epigenetic reader and writer MeCP2.
Methyl CpG binding protein-2 (MeCP2) is an essential epigenetic regulator in human brain development. Rett syndrome, the primary disorder caused by mutations in the X-linked MECP2 gene, is characterized by a period of cognitive decline and development of hand stereotypies and seizures following an apparently normal early infancy. In addition, MECP2 mutations and duplications are observed in a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, including severe neonatal encephalopathy, X-linked mental retardation, and autism, implicating MeCP2 as an essential regulator of postnatal brain development.
There are numerous examples of sex differences in brain and behavior and in susceptibility to a broad range of brain diseases. For example, gene expression is sexually dimorphic during brain development, adult life, and aging. These differences are orchestrated by the interplay between genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. However, the molecular mechanisms that underpin these differences have not been fully elucidated.
Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a transcriptional regulator of gene expression that is an important epigenetic factor in the maintenance and development of the central nervous system. The neurodevelopmental disorders Rett syndrome and MECP2 duplication syndrome arise from loss-of-function and gain-of-function alterations in MeCP2 expression, respectively. Several animal models have been developed to recapitulate the symptoms of Rett syndrome and MECP2 duplication syndrome.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked human neurodevelopmental disorder with features of autism and severe neurological dysfunction in females. RTT is caused by mutations in methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), a nuclear protein that, in neurons, regulates transcription, is expressed at high levels similar to that of histones, and binds to methylated cytosines broadly across the genome. By phosphotryptic mapping, we identify three sites (S86, S274 and T308) of activity-dependent MeCP2 phosphorylation.