Gene memory in neuroendocrine and behavioural systems.

D. W. Pfaff, P. J. Brooks, T. Funabashi, J. G. Pfaus, C. V. Mobbs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Several examples of sex steroid hormone actions on rat brain and behaviour show that initial hormone exposures may be followed by enduring neuronal alterations, apparent long after the hormone itself has disappeared. Precedents from non-neuronal systems led to the concept of 'gene memory'. We are studying genomic structural alterations in rat hypothalamic neurons to account for these effects. The preproenkephalin gene is turned on by oestradiol in rat brain neurons in a tissue-specific and genetic sex-specific manner. Levels of preproenkephalin mRNA in the ventromedial hypothalamus correlate tightly with oestradiol-dependent reproductive behaviour. Our results indicate a tissue-specific pattern of DNA methylation in the enkephalin promoter. Putative binding sites for several transcription factors have been described in the preproenkephalin gene promoter; a role for some of these factors in regulating expression of the gene has been demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-183; discussion 183-186
JournalCiba Foundation symposium
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


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