Altered Hippocampal Epigenetic Regulation Underlying Reduced Cognitive Development in Response to Early Life Environmental Insults

Kyle M. Schachtschneider, Michael E Welge, Loretta Auvil, Sulalita Chaki, Laurie A Rund, Ole Madsen, Monica R P Elmore, Rodney W Johnson, Martien A.M. Groenen, Lawrence B Schook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hippocampus is involved in learning and memory and undergoes significant growth and maturation during the neonatal period. Environmental insults during this developmental timeframe can have lasting effects on brain structure and function. This study assessed hippocampal DNA methylation and gene transcription from two independent studies reporting reduced cognitive development stemming from early life environmental insults (iron deficiency and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSv) infection) using porcine biomedical models. In total, 420 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified between the reduced cognition and control groups, including genes involved in neurodevelopment and function. Gene ontology (GO) terms enriched for DEGs were associated with immune responses, angiogenesis, and cellular development. In addition, 116 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified, which overlapped 125 genes. While no GO terms were enriched for genes overlapping DMRs, many of these genes are known to be involved in neurodevelopment and function, angiogenesis, and immunity. The observed altered methylation and expression of genes involved in neurological function suggest reduced cognition in response to early life environmental insults is due to altered cholinergic signaling and calcium regulation. Finally, two DMRs overlapped with two DEGs, VWF and LRRC32, which are associated with blood brain barrier permeability and regulatory T-cell activation, respectively. These results support the role of altered hippocampal DNA methylation and gene expression in early life environmentally-induced reductions in cognitive development across independent studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 4 2020


  • porcine biomedical models
  • hippocampus
  • cognitive development
  • DNA methylation
  • RNA-seq
  • machine learning
  • Porcine biomedical models
  • Machine learning
  • Cognitive development
  • Hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics


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