Previous studies documented significant behavioral changes in the offspring of cocaine-exposed mothers. We now explore the hypothesis that maternal cocaine exposure could alter the fetal epigenetic machinery sufficiently to cause lasting neurochemical and functional changes in the offspring. Pregnant CD1 mice were administered either saline or 20 mg/kg cocaine twice daily on gestational days 8-19. Male pups from each of ten litters of the cocaine and control groups were analyzed at 3 (P3) or 30 (P30) days postnatum. Global DNA methylation, methylated DNA immunoprecipitation followed by CGI(2) microarray profiling and bisulfite sequencing, as well as quantitative real-time RT-PCR gene expression analysis, were evaluated in hippocampal pyramidal neurons excised by laser capture microdissection. Following maternal cocaine exposure, global DNA methylation was significantly decreased at P3 and increased at P30. Among the 492 CGIs whose methylation was significantly altered by cocaine at P3, 34% were hypermethylated while 66% were hypomethylated. Several of these CGIs contained promoter regions for genes implicated in crucial cellular functions. Endogenous expression of selected genes linked to the abnormally methylated CGIs was correspondingly decreased or increased by as much as 4-19-fold. By P30, some of the cocaine-associated effects at P3 endured, reversed to opposite directions, or disappeared. Further, additional sets of abnormally methylated targets emerged at P30 that were not observed at P3. Taken together, these observations indicate that maternal cocaine exposure during the second and third trimesters of gestation could produce potentially profound structural and functional modifications in the epigenomic programs of neonatal and prepubertal mice.
Recommended CitationNovikova, Svetlana I.; He, Fang; Bai, Jie; Cutrufello, Nicholas J.; Lidow, Michael S.; and Undieh, Ashiwel S., "Maternal cocaine administration in mice alters DNA methylation and gene expression in hippocampal neurons of neonatal and prepubertal offspring" (2008). Jefferson College of Pharmacy Faculty Papers. Paper 2.