March 17, 2021 (MedicalXpress) -- The expression of genes in response to neuronal activity can significantly influence the human brain's development over time.
While many neuroscientists have investigated the epigenetic effects of neuronal activity, most of their studies were conducted on mice, thus the understanding of these processes in humans is still very limited.
Past research consistently highlighted the role of alterations in GABAergic neuronal circuits in the development of a variety of neurological disorders.
With this in mind, researchers at Harvard Medical School recently carried out a study aimed at characterizing neuronal activity-dependent transcriptional and epigenetic changes in humans using stem cell-derived GABAergic neurons.
"Our previous studies uncovered evolved activity-dependent gene expression in human neurons that is not found in a rodent brain," Gabriella L. Boulting, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told MedicalXpress.
"However, a genome-wide profiling of the human activity-dependent regulatory elements, which control gene expression and are important locations of evolution and disease-associated variation, was lacking."
The study carried out by Boulting and her colleagues had a number of key objectives. Firstly, the researchers wanted to identify DNA elements that increase their activity in response to human neuronal activity, as well as proteins that control their functions.
In addition, the researchers wanted to gain a better understanding of how DNA sequence variations associated with neurological diseases might be concentrated in these important sites of the human genome.