Massart R, Suderman M, Provencal N, Yi C, Bennett AJ, Suomi S, Szyf M
5-Hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) is abundant in the brain, suggesting an important role in epigenetic control of neuronal functions. In this paper, we show that 5hmC and 5-methylcytosine (5mC) levels are coordinately distributed in gene promoters of the rhesus macaque prefrontal cortex. Although promoter hydroxymethylation and methylation are overall negatively correlated with expression, a subset of highly expressed genes involved in specific cerebral functions is associated with high levels of 5mC and 5hmC. These relationships were also observed in the mouse cortex. Furthermore, we found that early-life maternal deprivation is associated, in the adult monkey cortex, with DNA hydroxymethylation changes of promoters of genes related to neurological functions and psychological disorders. These results reveal that early social adversity triggers variations in brain DNA hydroxymethylation that could be detected in adulthood.