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Epigenetic changes in the developing brain: Effects on behavior

This meeting was held March 28-29, 2014 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. and organized by Donald W. Pfaff (The Rockefeller University) and Eric Barrington Keverne (King’s College, Cambridge).


The earliest stages of brain development are susceptible to modification by epigenetic processes whose analyses have proceeded less comprehensively in neurons than in other cell types. Yet, a rapidly increasing number of studies have shown consequences of environmental perturbations very early in life, for behavioral events much later in life. Insofar as altered regulation of transcription of specific genes are involved, epigenetic mechanisms can be invoked: DNA methylation, modification of histone N-termini, and one or more of a large number of non-coding RNA’s, as well as the fascinating field of genomic imprinting.

This Sackler Colloquium brings together experts in DNA methylation, histone chemistry and the emerging field of non-coding RNAs with practicing neuroscientists.  The range of disciplines represented extends to clinical work, including a vision of what this field means for the future of psychiatry.

Image "Jigsaw-Rendered Yeast Nucleosome" used with permission from Sergei Y. Ponomarev, Ph.D.


Friday, March 28, 2014
Introduction and welcome, Donald Pfaff and Barry Keverne

Session I. DNA methylation (Chair, Tom Insel)
Mechanisms that establish and maintain genomic methylation patterns in mammalian tissues, Tim Bestor, Columbia University

Signaling networks that regulate synapse development and dysfunction, Michael Greenberg, Harvard University

Impact of early life experiences on DNA methylation: Implications for brain development and behaviour, Frances Champagne, Columbia University

Session II. Histone modifications (Chair, Barry Keverne)

A histone methylation network regulates epigenetic inheritance, Yang Shi, Harvard University

Global Epigenomic Reconfiguration during Mammalian Brain Development, Joseph Ecker, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

H3.3 nucleosomal dynamics regulate synaptic development and plasticity in postreplicative neurons, Ian Maze & David Allis, The Rockefeller University

Steroid hormone actions on histone tail modifications in the brain, Donald Pfaff, The Rockefeller University

14th Annual Sackler Public Lecture

Introduction – Diane Griffin, Vice President, National Academy of Sciences

Deconstructing circuits for motor behavior, Thomas Jessell, Columbia University

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Session III. Genomic imprinting (Chair, Rusty Gage)
Genomic imprinting,action and interaction of two genomes in mother, Barry Keverne, Cambridge University

Epigenetic regulation of imprinted gene loci, Marisa Bartolomei, University of Pennsylvania Medical School

Monoallelic gene expression, Andrew Chess, Mount Sinai Hospital

Session IV. Non-coding RNA’s (Chair, Don Pfaff)
Linking RNA to Nuclear Architecture, John L. Rinn, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Human retrotransposons ("jumping genes") in health and disease, Haig Kazazian, Johns Hopkins University

Session V. CNS applications (Chair, Tim Bestor)
Mobile Element Activity in Evolution and Disease, Fred Gage, Salk Institute

The Epigenetic Language of the Circadian Clock, Poalo Sassone-Corsi, University of California, Irvine

Epigenomics of Major Psychiatric Disease, Art Petronis, University of Toronto

Imprinting mechanisms underlying Prader Willi and Angelman syndromes, James Resnick, University of Florida

Closing remarks: Brain Exceptionalism, Tom Insel, Director, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH

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