Behavioral and molecular neuroepigenetic alterations in prenatally stressed mice: relevance for the study of chromatin remodeling properties of antipsychotic drugs.

We have recently reported that mice born from dams stressed during pregnancy (PRS mice), in adulthood, have behavioral deficits reminiscent of behaviors observed in schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar (BP) disorder patients. Furthermore, we have shown that the frontal cortex (FC) and hippocampus of adult PRS mice, like that of postmortem chronic SZ patients, are characterized by increases in DNA-methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1), ten-eleven methylcytosine dioxygenase 1 (TET1) and exhibit an enrichment of 5-methylcytosine (5MC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5HMC) at neocortical GABAergic and glutamatergic gene promoters. Here, we show that the behavioral deficits and the increased 5MC and 5HMC at glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (Gad1), reelin (Reln) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) promoters and the reduced expression of the messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and proteins corresponding to these genes in FC of adult PRS mice is reversed by treatment with clozapine (5 mg kg(-1) twice a day for 5 days) but not by haloperidol (1 mg kg(-1) twice a day for 5 days). Interestingly, clozapine had no effect on either the behavior, promoter methylation or the expression of these mRNAs and proteins when administered to offspring of nonstressed pregnant mice. Clozapine, but not haloperidol, reduced the elevated levels of DNMT1 and TET1, as well as the elevated levels of DNMT1 binding to Gad1, Reln and Bdnf promoters in PRS mice suggesting that clozapine, unlike haloperidol, may limit DNA methylation by interfering with DNA methylation dynamics. We conclude that the PRS mouse model may be useful preclinically in screening for the potential efficacy of antipsychotic drugs acting on altered epigenetic mechanisms. Furthermore, PRS mice may be invaluable for understanding the etiopathogenesis of SZ and BP disorder and for predicting treatment responses at early stages of the illness allowing for early detection and remedial intervention.

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