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The accumulation of N6-methyl-2-deoxyadenosine in DNA drives activity-induced gene expression and is required for the extinction of conditioned fear

By Xiang Li, Qiongyi Zhao, Wei Wei, Quan Lin, Christophe Magnan, Michael R. Emami, Luis E. Wearick da Silva, Thiago W. Viola, Paul R. Marshall, Jaiyu Yin, Sachithrani U Madugalle, Sara Nainar, Cathrine Broberg Vågbø, Laura J. Leighton, Esmi L Zajaczkowski, Ke Ke, Rodrigo Grassi-Oliveira, Magnar Bjørås, Pierre F. Baldi, Robert C Spitale, Timothy W Bredy

Posted 21 Jun 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/059972

Here we report that the recently discovered mammalian DNA modification N6-methyl-2-deoxyadenosine (m6dA) is dynamically regulated in primary cortical neurons, and accumulates along promoters and coding sequences within the genome of activated prefrontal cortical neurons of adult C57/Bl6 mice in response to fear extinction learning. The deposition of m6dA is generally associated with increased genome-wide occupancy of the mammalian m6dA methyltransferase, N6amt1, and this correlates with fear extinction learning-induced gene expression. Of particular relevance for fear extinction memory, the accumulation of m6dA is associated with an active chromatin state and the recruitment of transcriptional machinery to the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) P4 promoter, which is required for Bdnf exon IV mRNA expression and for the extinction of conditioned fear. These results expand the scope of DNA modifications in the adult brain and highlight changes in m6dA as a novel neuroepigenetic mechanism associated with activity-induced gene expression and the formation of fear extinction memory.

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