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Unique Epigenetic Code Identified During Human Brain Development
In this new study, published July 4 in Science, the scientists found that the patterns of DNA methylation undergo widespread reconfiguration in the frontal cortex of mouse and human brains during a time of development when synapses, or connections between nerve cells, are growing rapidly. The researchers identified the exact sites of DNA methylation throughout the genome in brains from infants through adults. They found that one form of DNA methylation is present in neurons and glia from birth. Strikingly, a second form of “non-CG” DNA methylation that is almost exclusive to neurons accumulates as the brain matures, becoming the dominant form of methylation in the genome of human neurons. These results help us to understand how the intricate DNA landscape of brain cells develops during the key stages of childhood.
Caption: A new study by Salk researchers provides the first comprehensive maps of epigenomic changes in the brain known as “DNA methylation,” a chemical modification of a cell’s DNA that can act as an extra layer of information in the genome. The study provides clues as to how specific genes are regulated in fetal, juvenile and adult brain cells, and the findings form a critical foundation to explore whether changes in methylation patterns may be linked to human diseases, including psychiatric disorders.
Credit: Image: Courtesy of Eran Mukamel, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies