Neuroscience Lecture by Isabelle Mansuy (Brain Research Institute, University of Zürich and Swiss Federal Insitute of Technology Zürich, Switzerland)

Title: "Epigenetics of Complex Behaviors and their Inheritance in Mammals"

Isabelle Mansuy

Time and venue: 11.00 a.m. at the Lecture Hall (room 0.10 of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max-von-Laue-Str. 3, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Campus Riedberg)

The development and expression of behaviors in mammals are strongly influenced by environmental factors. When favorable and positive, these factors facilitate appropriate responses and allow normal behaviors, but when aversive and negative, they can lead to behavioral alterations. Stressful and traumatic events early in life are particularly negative risk factors that can induce behavioral and psychiatric conditions such as depression, personality disorders and antisocial behaviors. Further, such disorders can, not only affect the individuals directly exposed to trauma, but they can also be transmitted and be similarly expressed in the following generations. The mechanisms underlying the etiology and inheritance of behavioral symptoms induced by traumatic stress early in life have been proposed to involve epigenetic processes, but remain undefined. This talk will discuss an experimental model of early stress in mice that provides initial evidence for the contribution of epigenetic processes to the impact of negative conditions on behavior across generations. This model shows that chronic and unpredictable maternal separation causes depressive and impulsive behaviors, social withdrawal and cognitive defects in adult mice, and that these symptoms are transmitted to the following offspring. It further shows that these alterations are associated with persistent changes in DNA methylation in the promoter-associated CpG island of several genes, both in the germline of the separated animals and in the brain of the offspring. These findings suggest the implication of epigenetic mechanisms in the impact of negative environmental conditions on behavior.



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