Chromatin remodeling inactivates activity genes and regulates neural coding

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 300-305
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4225

Epigenetic regulation in the brain

The activity of neurons in the brain controls the transcription of genes that influence the pruning of dendritic connections between neurons, and such modifications can influence animal behavior. Yang et al. propose a role for chromatin remodeling by the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase complex (NuRD) in the inactivation of such activity-dependent transcription in the mouse cerebellum (see the Perspective by Sweatt). Deposition of the histone variant H2A.z at promoters of activity-dependent genes required the NuRD complex. Loss of the NuRD complex function resulted in hypersensitivity of mice to sensory stimuli and excessive neuronal connectivity in animals performing a task on a treadmill.

Science, this issue p. 300; see also p. 218


Activity-dependent transcription influences neuronal connectivity, but the roles and mechanisms of inactivation of activity-dependent genes have remained poorly understood. Genome-wide analyses in the mouse cerebellum revealed that the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD) complex deposits the histone variant H2A.z at promoters of activity-dependent genes, thereby triggering their inactivation. Purification of translating messenger RNAs from synchronously developing granule neurons (Sync-TRAP) showed that conditional knockout of the core NuRD subunit Chd4 impairs inactivation of activity-dependent genes when neurons undergo dendrite pruning. Chd4 knockout or expression of NuRD-regulated activity genes impairs dendrite pruning. Imaging of behaving mice revealed hyperresponsivity of granule neurons to sensorimotor stimuli upon Chd4 knockout. Our findings define an epigenetic mechanism that inactivates activity-dependent transcription and regulates dendrite patterning and sensorimotor encoding in the brain.

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