Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Acute stress leaves epigenetic marks on the hippocampus

Date:
January 4, 2010
Source:
Rockefeller University
Summary:
In trying to explain psychiatric disorders, genes simply cannot tell the whole story. The real answers are in the interaction of genes and the environment. Post-traumatic stress disorder requires some trauma, for instance, and people, for the most part, aren't born depressed. Now research has revealed one mechanism by which a stressful experience changes the way that genes are expressed in the rat brain. The discovery of "epigenetic" regulation of genes in the brain is helping change the way scientists think about psychiatric disorders and could open new avenues to treatment.

In trying to explain psychiatric disorders, genes simply cannot tell the whole story. The real answers are in the interaction of genes and the environment. Post-traumatic stress disorder requires some trauma, for instance, and people, for the most part, aren't born depressed. Now research has revealed one mechanism by which a stressful experience changes the way that genes are expressed in the rat brain. The discovery of "epigenetic" regulation of genes in the brain is helping change the way scientists think about psychiatric disorders and could open new avenues to treatment.

Richard Hunter, a postdoc in Rockefeller University's Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, found that a single 30-minute episode of acute stress causes a rapid chemical change in DNA packaging proteins called histones in the rat hippocampus, which is a brain region known to be especially susceptible to the effects of stress in both rodents and humans.

The chemical change Hunter examined, called methylation, can either increase or decrease the expression of genes that are packaged by the histones, depending on the location of the methylation. He looked for methylation on three regions of histone H3 that have been shown to actively regulate gene expression. In experiments published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he shows that methylation of one mark, H3K9 trimethyl, roughly doubled in the hippocampus. Methylation of a second mark, H3K27 trimethyl, dropped by about 50 percent in the same area. Changes associated with the third mark were minor.

"The hippocampus is involved in episodic memory, so you would expect it to be sensitive to episodic experiments like this, more so than the motor regions, for instance," says Hunter, who worked on the project with Rockefeller scientists Bruce S. McEwen and Donald W. Pfaff. "But what is surprising is the magnitude and regional specificity of these patterns." The sheer size of the change in histone methylation suggests that it is important to the brain's response to acute stress, although its exact role remains a mystery. The two methyl marks that changed are both thought to repress gene expression usually, but methylation increased in one and decreased in the other.

Hunter also checked for similar changes as a result of chronic stress -- exposure to a 30-minute stress each day for 21 days. He did not find a major effect, which could reflect the animals' adjusting to the stress. However, when he treated the rats with fluoxetine, the generic form of the popular antidepressant Prozac, he reversed some methylation effects associated with chronic stress.

It's becoming increasingly evident, Hunter says, that the epigenetic changes like the methyl marks he observed and others, such as acetylation and phosphorylation, could play a significant role in the brain's response to stress and the treatment of stress related diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There was a thought that the genome project would reveal all in neuropsychiatric disease, but that has proven not to be the case," he says. "Epigenetics has become much more interesting because it allows us to look at how gene expression is changed by environmental events, explainable in part by histone modifications."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rockefeller University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hunter et al. Regulation of hippocampal H3 histone methylation by acute and chronic stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; 106 (49): 20912 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0911143106

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University. "Acute stress leaves epigenetic marks on the hippocampus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091231153341.htm>.
Rockefeller University. (2010, January 4). Acute stress leaves epigenetic marks on the hippocampus. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091231153341.htm
Rockefeller University. "Acute stress leaves epigenetic marks on the hippocampus." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091231153341.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins