Sex differences in the brain are largely organized by a testicular hormone surge that occurs in males shortly after birth. Although this hormone surge is transient, sex differences in brain and behavior are lasting. Here we describe a sex difference in DNA methylation of the estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha) promoter region within the developing rat preoptic area, with males exhibiting more DNA methylation within the ERalpha promoter than females. More importantly, we report that simulating maternal grooming, a form of maternal interaction that is sexually dimorphic with males experiencing more than females during the neonatal period, effectively masculinizes female ERalpha promoter methylation and gene expression. This suggests natural variations in maternal care that are directed differentially at males vs. females can influence sex differences in the brain by creating sexually dimorphic DNA methylation patterns. We also find that the early estradiol exposure may contribute to sex differences in DNA methylation patterns. This suggests that early social interaction and estradiol exposure may converge at the genome to organize lasting sex differences in the brain via epigenetic differentiation.
Research. Development. Production.
We are a leading supplier to the global Life Science industry with solutions and services for research, biotechnology development and production, and pharmaceutical drug therapy development and production.