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    The anxiety and ethanol intake controlling GAL5.1 enhancer is epigenetically modulated by, and controls preference for, high-fat diet

    McEwan, Andrew, Erickson, Johanna Celene, Davidson, Connor, Heijkoop, Jenny, Turnbull, Yvonne, Delibegovic, Mirela, Murgatroyd, Christopher ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6885-7794 and MacKenzie, Alasdair (2021) The anxiety and ethanol intake controlling GAL5.1 enhancer is epigenetically modulated by, and controls preference for, high-fat diet. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 78 (6). pp. 3045-3055. ISSN 1420-682X

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    Abstract

    Excess maternal fat intake and obesity increase offspring susceptibility to conditions such as chronic anxiety and substance abuse. We hypothesised that environmentally modulated DNA methylation changes (5mC/5hmC) in regulatory regions of the genome that modulate mood and consumptive behaviours could contribute to susceptibility to these conditions. We explored the effects of environmental factors on 5mC/5hmC levels within the GAL5.1 enhancer that controls anxiety-related behaviours and alcohol intake. We first observed that 5mC/5hmC levels within the GAL5.1 enhancer differed significantly in different parts of the brain. Moreover, we noted that early life stress had no significant effect of 5mC/5hmC levels within GAL5.1. In contrast, we identified that allowing access of pregnant mothers to high-fat diet (> 60% calories from fat) had a significant effect on 5mC/5hmC levels within GAL5.1 in hypothalamus and amygdala of resulting male offspring. Cell transfection-based studies using GAL5.1 reporter plasmids showed that 5mC has a significant repressive effect on GAL5.1 activity and its response to known stimuli, such as EGR1 transcription factor expression and PKC agonism. Intriguingly, CRISPR-driven disruption of GAL5.1 from the mouse genome, although having negligible effects on metabolism or general appetite, significantly decreased intake of high-fat diet suggesting that GAL5.1, in addition to being epigenetically modulated by high-fat diet, also actively contributes to the consumption of high-fat diet suggesting its involvement in an environmentally influenced regulatory loop. Furthermore, considering that GAL5.1 also controls alcohol preference and anxiety these studies may provide a first glimpse into an epigenetically controlled mechanism that links maternal high-fat diet with transgenerational susceptibility to alcohol abuse and anxiety.

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