Epigenetic modifications may underlie the influence of early life experiences on neuronal development and function, yet the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. In this paper, Stroud and colleagues report that deposition of repressive mCA marks by the methyltransferase DNMT3A across specific brain genes during early postnatal life is important for their regulation throughout life. DNMT3A preferentially binds across transcribed regions of lowly expressed genes, and changes in gene transcription activity affect this binding. Thus early life gene activity in the brain affects gene methylation and these changes persist into adulthood. This work has implications for drug treatments and other environmental factors which affect early life gene activity in the brain.
Stroud H, Su SC, Hrvatin S, Greben AW, Renthal W, Boxer LD, Nagy MA, Hochbaum DR, Kinde B, Gabel HW, Greenberg ME: Early-Life Gene Expression in Neurons Modulates Lasting Epigenetic States. Cell 171: 1-14 (2017).