Early life stress increases stress vulnerability through BDNF gene epigenetic changes in the rat hippocampus

Mi Kyoung Seo, Nguyen Ngoc Ly, Chan Hong Lee, Hye Yeon Cho, Cheol Min Choi, Le Hoa Nhu, Jung Goo Lee, Bong Ju Lee, Gyung Mee Kim, Bong June Yoon, Sung Woo Park, Young Hoon Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Early life stress (ELS) exerts long-lasting epigenetic influences on the brain and makes an individual susceptible to later depression. It is poorly understood whether ELS and subsequent adult chronic stress modulate epigenetic mechanisms. We examined the epigenetic mechanisms of the BDNF gene in the hippocampus, which may underlie stress vulnerability to postnatal maternal separation (MS) and adult restraint stress (RS). Rat pups were separated from their dams (3 h/day from P1-P21). When the pups reached adulthood (8 weeks old), we introduced RS (2 h/day for 3 weeks) followed by escitalopram treatment. We showed that both the MS and RS groups expressed reduced levels of total and exon IV BDNF mRNA. Furthermore, RS potentiated MS-induced decreases in these expression levels. Similarly, both the MS and RS groups showed decreased levels of acetylated histone H3 and H4 at BDNF promoter IV, and RS exacerbated MS-induced decreases of H3 and H4 acetylation. Both the MS and RS groups had increased MeCP2 levels at BDNF promoter IV, as well as increased HDAC5 mRNA, and the combination of MS and RS exerted a greater effect on these parameters than did RS alone. In the forced swimming test, the immobility time of the MS + RS group was significantly higher than that of the RS group. Additionally, chronic escitalopram treatment recovered these alterations. Our results suggest that postnatal MS and subsequent adult RS modulate epigenetic changes in the BDNF gene, and that these changes may be related to behavioral phenotype. These epigenetic mechanisms are involved in escitalopram action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-397
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • BDNF
  • Epigenetic mechanism
  • Escitalopram
  • Maternal separation
  • Restraint stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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