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How does a neuron "know" to modulate its epigenetic machinery in response to early-life environment/experience?

A resource from Frontiers in Psychiatry 

Exciting information is emerging about epigenetic mechanisms and their role in long-lasting changes of neuronal gene expression. Whereas these mechanisms are active throughout life, recent findings point to a critical window of early postnatal development during which neuronal gene expression may be persistently “re-programed” via epigenetic modifications. However, it remains unclear how the epigenetic machinery is modulated. Here we focus on an important example of early-life programing: the effect of sensory input from the mother on expression patterns of key stress-related genes in the developing brain. We focus on the lasting effects of this early-life experience on corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) gene expression in the hypothalamus, and describe recent work that integrates organism-wide signals with cellular signals that in turn impact epigenetic regulation. We describe the operational brain networks that convey sensory input to CRH-expressing cells, and highlight the resulting “re-wiring” of synaptic connectivity to these neurons. We then move from intercellular to intracellular mechanisms, speculating about the induction, and maintenance of lifelong CRH repression provoked by early-life experience.