High-resolution mapping of the epigenome has discovered unique patterns that emerge during the generation of brain circuitry in childhood.
While the 'genome' can be thought of as the instruction manual that contains the blueprints (genes) for all of the components of our cells and our body, the 'epigenome' can be thought of as an additional layer of information on top of our genes that change the way they are used.
"These new insights will provide the foundation for investigating the role the epigenome plays in learning, memory formation, brain structure and mental illness." says UWA Professor Ryan Lister, a genome biologist in the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, and a corresponding author in this new study.
Joseph R. Ecker, senior author of this study, and professor and director of the Genomic Analysis Laboratory at California's Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, said the research shows that the period during which the neural circuits of the brain mature is accompanied by a parallel process of large-scale reconfiguration of the neural epigenome.
A healthy brain is the product of a long period of developmental processes, Professor Ecker said. These periods of development forge complex structures and connections within our brains. The front part of our brain, called the frontal cortex, is critical for our abilities to think, decide and act,
The frontal cortex is made up of distinct types of cells, such as neurons and glia, which each perform very different functions. However, we know that these distinct types of cells in the brain all contain the same genome sequence; the A, C, G and T 'letters' of the DNA code that provides the instructions to build the cell; so how can they each have such different identities?
The answer lies in a secondary layer of information that is written on top of the DNA of the genome, referred to as the 'epigenome'. One component of the epigen
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University of Western Australia