Male and female brains differ significantly in both health and disease, and yet the female brain has been understudied. Sex-hormone fluctuations make the female brain particularly dynamic and are likely to confer female-specific risks for neuropsychiatric disorders. The molecular mechanisms underlying the dynamic nature of the female brain structure and function are unknown. Here we show that neuronal chromatin organization in the female ventral hippocampus of mouse fluctuates with the oestrous cycle. We find chromatin organizational changes associated with the transcriptional activity of genes important for neuronal function and behaviour. We link these chromatin dynamics to variation in anxiety-related behaviour and brain structure. Our findings implicate an immediate-early gene product, Egr1, as part of the mechanism mediating oestrous cycle-dependent chromatin and transcriptional changes. This study reveals extreme, sex-specific dynamism of the neuronal epigenome, and establishes a foundation for the development of sex-specific treatments for disorders such as anxiety and depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy