alexa In utero alcohol exposure, epigenetic changes, and their consequences.


Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology & Mental Health

Author(s): Ungerer M, Knezovich J, Ramsay M

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Abstract Exposure to alcohol has serious consequences for the developing fetus, leading to a range of conditions collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Most importantly, alcohol exposure affects the development of the brain during critical periods of differentiation and growth, leading to cognitive and behavioral deficits. The molecular mechanisms and processes underlying the teratogenic effects of alcohol exposure remain poorly understood and are complex, because the specific effects depend on the timing, amount, and duration of exposure as well as genetic susceptibility. Accumulating evidence from studies on DNA methylation and histone modification that affect chromatin structure, as well as on the role of microRNAs in regulating mRNA levels supports the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to the development of FASD. These epigenetic effects are difficult to study, however, because they often are cell-type specific and transient in nature. Rodent models play an important role in FASD research. Although recent studies using these models have yielded some insight into epigenetic mechanisms affecting brain development, they have generated more questions than they have provided definitive answers. Researchers are just beginning to explore the intertwined roles of different epigenetic mechanisms in neurogenesis and how this process is affected by exposure to alcohol, causing FASD.
This article was published in Alcohol Res and referenced in Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology & Mental Health

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