Impact of DNMT1 and DNMT3a forebrain knockout on depressive- and anxiety like behavior in mice

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 Nov:135:139-145. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.08.012. Epub 2016 Aug 18.


DNA methylation has been shown to impact certain forms of synaptic and behavioral plasticity that have been implicated in the development in psychiatric disorders. DNA methylation is catalyzed by DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) enzymes that continue to be expressed in postmitotic neurons in the forebrain. Using a conditional forebrain knockout of DNMT1 or DNMT3a we assessed the role of these DNMTs in anxiety and depressive-like behavior in mice using an array of behavioral testing paradigms. Forebrain deletion of DNMT1 had anxiolytic and antidepressant-like properties as assessed by elevated plus maze, novelty suppressed feeding, forced swim, and social interaction tests. DNMT3a knockout mice, by contrast, did not exhibit significant behavioral alterations in these tests. Given the putative role of altered DNA methylation patterns in the development of schizophrenia, we also assessed DNMT1 and DNMT3a knockout mice in a prepulse inhibition task and found an enhanced prepulse inhibition of startle in DNMT1 knockouts relative to wild type mice, with no change evident in DNMT3a knockout mice. Our data suggest that DNMT1 and DNMT3a are distinctly involved in affective behavior and that DNMT1 may ultimately represent a potential target for treatment of certain affective behavioral disorders.

Keywords: Anxiety; Behavior; DNA methylation; Depression; Prepulse inhibition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety* / genetics
  • Anxiety* / physiopathology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1 / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1 / physiology*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / physiology*
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Depression* / genetics
  • Depression* / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Prepulse Inhibition* / genetics
  • Prepulse Inhibition* / physiology
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*


  • Dnmt3a protein, mouse
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Dnmt1 protein, mouse