Author(s): Tsai HW, Grant PA, Rissman EF
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Abstract Sex differences in neural development are established via a number of cellular processes (i.e., migration, death and survival). One critical factor identified is the neonatal rise in testosterone (T) which activates gene transcription via androgen (AR) and, after aromatization to estradiol, estrogen receptors (ERalpha and beta). Recent evidence shows that AR and ERs interact with histone modifying enzymes. Post-translational modifications of histones, including acetylation and methylation, are involved in transcriptional regulation during normal development. Therefore, we hypothesized that acetylation and/or methylation of histone H3 may underlie sexual differentiation, at least in some regions of the brain. We measured levels of acetylated (H3K9/14Ac) and trimethylated (H3K9Me3) H3 in whole neonatal mouse brains and in three regions: preoptic area + hypothalamus, amygdala and cortex + hippocampus (CTX/HIP). Sex differences in H3K9/14Ac and H3K9Me3 (males > females) were noted in the CTX/HIP on embryonic day 18, the day of birth, and six days later. To determine if T mediates these changes in H3 modifications, pregnant dams received vehicle or T for the final four days of gestation; pup brains were collected at birth. Methylation of H3 was sexually dimorphic despite hormone treatment. In contrast, H3 acetylation in the CTX/HIP of females from T-treated dams rose to levels equivalent to males. Thus, H3 modifications are sexually dimorphic in the developing mouse CTX/HIP and acetylation, but not methylation, is masculinized in females by T in utero. This is the first demonstration that histone modification is associated with neural sexual differentiation.
This article was published in Epigenetics
and referenced in Journal of Steroids & Hormonal Science