DNA methylation is one of the essential factors in the control of gene expression. Folic acid, methionine and choline (methyl donors)-all nutrients related to one-carbon metabolism-are known as important mediators of DNA methylation. A previous study has shown that long-term administration of a diet lacking in methyl donors caused global DNA hypermethylation in the brain (Pogribny et al., 2008). However, no study has investigated the effects of a diet lacking in methyl donors during the developmental period on emotional behaviors such as fear and anxiety-like behavior in association with gene expressions in the brain. In addition, it has not been elucidated whether a diet supplemented with methyl donors later in life can reverse these changes. Therefore, we examined the effects of methyl donor deficiency during the developmental period on fear memory acquisition/extinction and anxiety-like behavior, and the relevant gene expressions in the hippocampus in juvenile (6-wk) and adult (12-wk) mice. We found that juvenile mice fed a methyl-donor-deficient diet had impaired fear memory acquisition along with decreases in the gene expressions of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b. In addition, reduced anxiety-like behavior with decreased gene expressions of Grin2b and Gabar2 was observed in both the methyl-donor-deficient group and the body-weight-matched food-restriction group. After being fed a diet supplemented with methyl donors ad libitum, adult mice reversed the alteration of gene expression of Dnmt3a, Dnmt3b, Grin2b and Gabar2, but anxiety-like behavior became elevated. In addition, impaired fear-memory formation was observed in the adult mice fed the methyl-donor-deficient diet during the developmental period. Our study suggested that developmental alterations in the one-carbon metabolic pathway in the brain could have effects on emotional behavior and memory formation that last into adulthood. © 2014 Ishii et al.
Ishii, D., Matsuzawa, D., Matsuda, S., Tomizawa, H., Sutoh, C., & Shimizu, E. (2014). Methyl donor-deficient diet during development can affect fear and anxiety in adulthood in C57BL/6J mice. PLoS ONE, 9(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105750