Effects of Prenatal Stress and/or Forebrain Atrx Deficiency in C57/B6 Male Mice on Maternal Care and Emotional, Cognitive and Social Development
Early life experience influences the developing brain, notably in areas related to stress regulation, cognition and social behaviours. During perinatal development, the brain exhibits high plasticity, and environmental signals can greatly alter developmental trajectories. Animal models of gestational stress suggest that stable changes in gene expression in response to prenatal stress and/or variations in mother-pup interactions during early postnatal life is mediated by changes in chromatin structure and DNA methylation. Maternal care is associated with stable changes in hippocampal Atrx gene expression. The chromatin remodelling protein ATRX mediates the accessibility of other proteins in the nucleus to DNA, to influence gene expression throughout development. In this study, we propose to examine the role of ATRX through the use of an Atrx haploinsufficient mouse model, and observe the cognitive, behavioural, physiological, and epigenetic outcomes related to decreased ATRX, gestational stress, and variations in early maternal care.