The present study was undertaken to evaluate the immediate and long-term effects of a single-day exposure to 5-Azacytidine (5-AzaC), a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, on neurobehavioral abnormalities in mice. Our findings suggest that the 5-AzaC treatment significantly inhibited DNA methylation, impaired extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) activation and reduced expression of the activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc). These events lead to the activation of caspase-3 (a marker for neurodegeneration) in several brain regions, including the hippocampus and cortex, two brain areas that are essential for memory formation and memory storage, respectively. 5-AzaC treatment of P7 mice induced significant deficits in spatial memory, social recognition, and object memory in adult mice and deficits in long-term potentiation (LTP) in adult hippocampal slices. Together, these data demonstrate that the inhibition of DNA methylation by 5-AzaC treatment in P7 mice causes neurodegeneration and impairs ERK1/2 activation and Arc protein expression in neonatal mice and induces behavioral abnormalities in adult mice. DNA methylation-mediated mechanisms appear to be necessary for the proper maturation of synaptic circuits during development, and disruption of this process by 5-AzaC could lead to abnormal cognitive function.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Developing brain; Epigenetics; Methyltransferase; Neuronal loss; Synaptic plasticity.
Published by Elsevier Inc.