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Scientists explore the mind with epigenomic maps
Date:7/5/2013

adds to this picture by showing that abundant non-CG methylation also exists in the human brain."

Surprisingly, this unique form of DNA methylation is almost exclusively found in neurons, and in patterns that are very similar between individuals. "Our research shows that a highly-ordered system of DNA tagging operates in our brain cells and that this system is unique to the brain," says co-author Dr Julian Tonti-Filippini, a computational biologist of the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the WA Centre of Excellence for Computational Systems Biology.

This finding is very important, as previous studies have suggested that DNA methylation may play an important role in learning, memory formation, and flexibility of human brain circuitry. "These results extended our knowledge of the unique role of DNA methylation in brain development and function," Professor Ecker said. "They offer a new framework for testing the role of the epigenome in healthy function and in pathological disruptions of neural circuits."

"We found that patterns of methylation are dynamic during brain development, in particular for non-CG methylation during early childhood and adolescence, which changes the way that we think about normal brain function and dysfunction." says study co-author Terrence J. Sejnowski, head of Salk's Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. Recent studies have suggested that DNA methylation may be involved in mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Environmental or experience-dependent alteration of these unique patterns of DNA methylation in neurons could lead to changes gene expression, adds co-corresponding author M. Margarita Behrens, a scientist in Salk's Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, "the alterations of these methylation patterns will change the way in which networks are formed, which could, in turn, lead to the appearance of mental disorders later in life."

This study
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Contact: Ryan Lister
ryan.lister@uwa.edu.au
61-448-375-394
University of Western Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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