Genomic imprinting and growth

This 2018 UK paper reviewed genomic imprinting:

“Since their discovery nearly 30 years ago, imprinted genes have been a paradigm for exploring the epigenetic control of gene expression. Moreover, their roles in early life growth and placentation are undisputed.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear that imprinted gene function has a wider role in maternal physiology during reproduction – both by modulating fetal and placental endocrine products that signal to alter maternal energy homeostasis, and by altering maternal energetic set points, thus producing downstream actions on nutrient provisioning.”

“Imprinted genes in the conceptus produce products that alter maternal resource allocation by:

  1. altering the transport capacity of the placenta;
  2. increasing fetal demand for resources by their action on the intrinsic growth rate; and
  3. signalling to the mother by the production of fetal/placental hormones that modify maternal metabolism.”

Other studies/reviews I’ve curated that covered genomic imprinting are: “Genomic imprinting, growth and maternal-fetal interactions”


RNA and neurodegenerative diseases

This 2018 Chinese paper reviewed the associations among long non-coding RNA and four neurodegenerative diseases:

“lncRNAs are widely implicated in various physiological and pathological processes, such as epigenetic regulation, cell cycle regulation, cell differentiation regulation, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, through their interactions with chromatin, protein, and other RNAs. Numerous studies have suggested that lncRNAs are closely linked with the occurrence and development of a variety of diseases, especially neurodegenerative diseases, of which the etiologies are complicated and the underlying mechanisms remain elusive.

We focus on how lncRNA dysfunctions are involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”

Table 1 showed specific lncRNAs that acted as “bodyguards” in inherited Huntington’s disease, “culprits” in Alzheimer’s disease, and as both in Parkinson’s disease. The table didn’t include lncRNAs associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis although the review text mentioned several. “Long Non-coding RNAs, Novel Culprits, or Bodyguards in Neurodegenerative Diseases”

Sleep and adult brain neurogenesis

This 2018 Japan/Detroit review subject was the impact of sleep and epigenetic modifications on adult dentate gyrus neurogenesis:

“We discuss the functions of adult‐born DG neurons, describe the epigenetic regulation of adult DG neurogenesis, identify overlaps in how sleep and epigenetic modifications impact adult DG neurogenesis and memory consolidation..

Whereas the rate of DG neurogenesis declines exponentially with age in most mammals, humans appear to exhibit a more modest age‐related reduction in DG neurogenesis. Evidence of adult neurogenesis has also been observed in other regions of the mammalian brain such as the subventricular zone, neocortex, hypothalamus, amygdala, and striatum.

Adult‐born DG neurons functionally integrate into hippocampal circuitry and play a special role in cognition during a period of heightened excitability and synaptic plasticity occurring 4–6 weeks after mitosis..Adult DG neurogenesis is regulated by a myriad of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including:

  • drugs,
  • diet,
  • inflammation,
  • physical activity,
  • environmental enrichment,
  • stress, and
  • trauma.”

Some of what the review stated was contradicted by other evidence. For example, arguments for sleep were based on the memory consolidation paradigm, but evidence against memory consolidation wasn’t cited for balanced consideration.

It reminded me of A review that inadvertently showed how memory paradigms prevented relevant research. That review’s citations included a study led by one of those reviewers where:

“The researchers elected to pursue a workaround of the memory reconsolidation paradigm when the need for a new paradigm of enduring memories directly confronted them!”

Some of what this review stated was speculation. I didn’t quote any sections that followed:

 “We go one step further and propose..”

The review also had a narrative directed toward:

“Employing sleep interventions and epigenetic drugs..”

It’s storytelling rather than pursuing the scientific method when reviewers approach a topic as these reviewers did.

Instead of reading the review, I recommend this informative blog post from a Canadian researcher who provided scientific contexts rather than a directed narrative to summarize what is and isn’t known so far in 2018 about human neurogenesis. “Regulatory Influence of Sleep and Epigenetics on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Cognitive and Emotional Function”

The influence of donor age on induced pluripotent stem cell functionality

This 2018 German review subject was the influence of donor age on induced pluripotent stem cell functionality:

“Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) avoid many of the restrictions that hamper the application of human embryonic stem cells..Also, the donor’s clinical phenotype is often known when working with iPSCs.

Typical signs of cellular ageing are reverted in the process of iPSC reprogramming, and iPSCs from older donors do not show diminished differentiation potential nor do iPSC-derived cells from older donors suffer early senescence or show functional impairments when compared with those from younger donors.”

The reviewers discussed limitations in the current research:

  • “Mutations in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA acquired over the donor’s lifespan and during the reprogramming process might persist.
  • It is not yet known how strongly the variable genetic background of individual donors affects the reprogramming process and the quality of resulting iPSCs.
  • A low number of donors and cell lines is a general problem in almost all research articles on the topic of iPSCs. This combined with the lack of a standardised protocol for optimal iPSC derivation, culture and quality control makes any comparison between different publications very difficult if not impossible. Especially, since it has been shown that many factors influence the quality of iPSCs and iPSC-derived cells, such as time and cell type used for reprogramming, time in culture, or reprogramming modality.
  • A problem lies in the retention of tissue-specific epigenetic alterations which in part could be caused by incomplete reprogramming and might be improved by vigorous quality testing and careful selection of iPSC colonies during reprogramming and passaging.
  • The question regarding tumourigenicity will most likely only be answered satisfactorily once the differentiation methods are further improved, iPSC-derived cell-based therapies have made their way further into clinical practice, and patients receiving treatments have been observed for multiple years.” “Age Is Relative-Impact of Donor Age on Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cell Functionality”

Lysine acetylation is gnarly and dynamic

This 2018 UC San Francisco cell review provided details of lysine acetylation:

“Lysine acetylation has moved from being a specialized mark on histones to a critical modification controlling cell fate, proliferation, and metabolism.

During the lifetime of a protein there are many points at which an acetyl group may be added to influence function..The dynamic interplay between the writers, erasers, and readers of acetylation regulates critical epigenomic and metabolic processes, in addition to other major cellular functions.

Acetylation sites are well conserved, in contrast to methylation, where species-specific differences exist.”

The review included a section on mitochondrial protein acetylation:

“Mitochondria have emerged as organelles in which acetylation is more prominent than phosphorylation and plays a key role in integrating metabolic cues with the bioenergetic equilibrium of the cell.

Increased mitochondrial protein acetylation is associated with physiological conditions that result in higher levels of acetyl-CoA (e.g., fasting, calorie restriction, high-fat diet, and ethanol intoxication).” “Lysine Acetylation Goes Global: From Epigenetics to Metabolism and Therapeutics” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Ibraheem Ali for providing a full copy.

A review of human pluripotent stem cell research

This 2018 Belgian review subject was human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs):

“hPSCs are now starting to live up to the great expectations they created after their first derivation nearly twenty years ago. Indeed, the first results of clinical trials to treat macular degeneration are being published, and an increasing number of clinical or preclinical trials are being started for conditions such as spinal cord injury, diabetes and heart disease.

This imminent transition of pluripotent stem cells to the clinic has resulted in researchers and clinicians becoming acutely aware of the problems related to the genetic and epigenetic diversity of these cells, included acquired mutations.”

The review included a section on mitochondrial processes that impact the differentiation capacity of pluripotent stem cells, summarized by:

“From this overview, we also observe a more ample contribution of mtDNA in cell fate determination than is represented in many studies tackling the topic.

The transition from aerobic glycolysis to aerobic phosphorylation plays a vital role in cells’ ability to correctly proceed through differentiation, though the mtDNA is rarely evaluated.” “Genetic and epigenetic factors which modulate differentiation propensity in human pluripotent stem cells” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Alexander Keller for providing a copy.

An emotional center of our brains

This 2018 McGill/UC San Diego rodent study was on the dentate gyrus area of the hippocampus:

“Early life experience influences stress reactivity and mental health through effects on cognitive-emotional functions that are, in part, linked to gene expression in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus. The hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) is a major site for experience-dependent plasticity associated with sustained transcriptional alterations, potentially mediated by epigenetic modifications.

Peripubertal environmental enrichment increases hippocampal volume and enhances dorsal DG-specific differences in gene expression..Overall, our transcriptome and DNA methylation data support a model of regional and environmental effects on the molecular profile of DG neurons.”

The study thoroughly investigated several areas. I’ll quote a few parts with the section heading.


“The dorsal hippocampus, corresponding to the posterior hippocampus in primates, associates closely with cognitive functions and age-related cognitive impairments. In contrast, the ventral hippocampus, (anterior region in primates) is implicated in the regulation of emotional states and vulnerability for affective disorders. This functional specialization is reflected in patterns of gene expression.”

Results subsections:

“Environmental enrichment promotes hippocampal neurogenesis – hippocampal volume is enlarged in mice raised in an enriched environment (EE) compared with standard housing (SH) in both the dorsal and ventral poles..EE also associates with >60% more newborn neurons.

Specialization of gene expression in dorsal and ventral DG – Gene expression was more affected by EE in dorsal than ventral DG, and dorsal DG has twice as many differentially-expressed genes.

DNA methylation differences between dorsal and ventral DG – Each of the three forms of methylation [CpG, non-CpG, and hmC (hydroxymethylation)] exhibited a distinct genomic distribution in dorsal and ventral DG..A key advantage of whole-genome DNA methylation profiling is the ability to identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs), often far from any gene body, that mark tissue-specific gene regulatory elements..This strong bias, with ~40-fold more hypomethylated regions in the dorsal DG, contrasts with the balanced number of differentially expressed genes in dorsal and ventral DG, suggesting an asymmetric role for DNA methylation in region-specific gene regulation. Despite their small number, ventral hypomethylated DMRs marked key developmental patterning transcription factors..which are linked to the proliferation, maintenance and survival of neural stem cells.

DNA methylation correlates with repression at some genes – CG and non-CG DNA methylation are associated with reduced gene expression, while hmC associates with increased expression..dorsal DMRs were also enriched at genes that were up- and down-regulated in EE, although over half of dorsal up-regulated genes, and >98.5% of ventral up-regulated genes, contained no DMRs that could explain their region-specific differential expression.”


  • “a The cell stages occurring within the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus are shown together with a schematic illustration of possible relative proportions consistent with our data. RGL Radial glia-like progenitor, NSC Neural stem cell.
  • b Key genes associated with the RGL stage are up-regulated in ventral DG relative to dorsal DG.
  • c We propose that mCH [non-CpG methylation] accumulates mainly in mature neurons.”

Why do human brain studies that include the hippocampus overwhelmingly ignore its role in our emotions? For example, the researchers of Advance science by including emotion in research could find only 397 suitable studies performed over 22 years from 1990 to 2011. There were tens or hundreds of times more human brain studies done during the same period that intentionally excluded emotional content!

The current study provided physiological bases for dialing back the bias of human brain research focusing exclusively on cognitive functions without also investigating attributes of emotional processing. I look forward to seeing 2018 human studies that are designed to correct this recurring research deficiency. “Environmental enrichment increases transcriptional and epigenetic differentiation between mouse dorsal and ventral dentate gyrus”