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Genes 2017, 8(2), 69; doi:10.3390/genes8020069

Primetime for Learning Genes

Neuroscience Group, Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences, University of South Dakota, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Vermillion, SD 57069, USA
Academic Editor: Dennis R. Grayson
Received: 14 December 2016 / Revised: 27 January 2017 / Accepted: 8 February 2017 / Published: 11 February 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Role of Epigenetic Gene Regulation in Brain Function)
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Abstract

Learning genes in mature neurons are uniquely suited to respond rapidly to specific environmental stimuli. Expression of individual learning genes, therefore, requires regulatory mechanisms that have the flexibility to respond with transcriptional activation or repression to select appropriate physiological and behavioral responses. Among the mechanisms that equip genes to respond adaptively are bivalent domains. These are specific histone modifications localized to gene promoters that are characteristic of both gene activation and repression, and have been studied primarily for developmental genes in embryonic stem cells. In this review, studies of the epigenetic regulation of learning genes in neurons, particularly the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene (BDNF), by methylation/demethylation and chromatin modifications in the context of learning and memory will be highlighted. Because of the unique function of learning genes in the mature brain, it is proposed that bivalent domains are a characteristic feature of the chromatin landscape surrounding their promoters. This allows them to be “poised” for rapid response to activate or repress gene expression depending on environmental stimuli. View Full-Text
Keywords: bivalent domains; learning genes; BDNF; methylation; chromatin; classical conditioning; Tet1 bivalent domains; learning genes; BDNF; methylation; chromatin; classical conditioning; Tet1
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Keifer, J. Primetime for Learning Genes. Genes 2017, 8, 69.

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