Behavioural brain research

Histone modifications of the Crhr1 gene in a rat model of depression following chronic stress.

PMID 24867333


Multiple lines of evidence suggest a link between depression and changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis hormone dynamics, including altered regulation of the corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and its main receptor, corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1). However, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying depression remain poorly understood. In this study, we employed a model of depression in rats by subjecting animals to 21 days of chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS). Real-time PCR and western blotting were used to study the mRNA and protein expression levels of CRHR1 in the hypothalamus. In addition, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were used to detect histone methylation at the Crhr1 gene promoter; the levels of histone H3 trimethylation at lysines 4 (H3K4) and 9 (H3K9) reflect active transcription and transcriptional repression, respectively. Rats exposed to CUMS exhibited significant reduction in locomotion and sucrose preference. These behavioral alterations were associated with elevated expression levels of CRHR1 mRNA and protein in the hypothalamus of rats in the CUMS group. We also found that the levels of H3K9 trimethylation at the Crhr1 gene promoter in the CUMS group were significantly lower than those in the control group, whereas H3K4 trimethylation levels were the same for both groups. Taken together, our findings suggest that the increase in CRHR1 expression in the hypothalamus of stressed rats correlates with a decrease in the repressive chromatin state caused by reduced H3K9 trimethylation levels. These data are the first in vivo evidence of a role for chromatin modifications in the regulation of Crhr1 gene expression in the hypothalamus, and may provide novel insight into therapeutic approaches to treat depression.

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Lys-Lys-Lys-Lys, ≥95% (TLC)