Adverse maternal environment affects hippocampal HTR2c variant expression and epigenetic characteristics in mouse offspring.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1038/s41390-022-01962-8


BACKGROUND: An adverse maternal environment (AME) predisposes progeny towards cognitive impairment in humans and mice. Cognitive impairment associates with hippocampal dysfunction. An important regulator of hippocampal function is the hippocampal serotonergic system. Dysregulation of hippocampal serotonin receptor 2c (HTR2c) expression is linked with cognitive impairment. HTR2c contains multiple mRNA variants and isoforms that are epigenetically regulated including DNA methylation, histone modifications, and small nucleolar RNA MBII-52. We tested the hypotheses that AME increases HTR2c variant expression and alters epigenetic modifications along the HTR2c gene locus.

METHODS: We create an AME through maternal Western diet and prenatal environmental stress in the mouse. We analyzed hippocampal HTR2c and variants' expression, DNA methylation and histone modifications along the gene locus, and MBII-52 levels in postnatal day 21 offspring.

RESULTS: AME significantly increased the expressions of total HTR2c and full-length variants (V201 and V202) concurrently with an altered epigenetic profile along the HTR2c gene locus in male offspring hippocampi. Moreover, increased full-length variants' expression in AME males was in line with increased MBII-52 levels.

CONCLUSIONS: AME affects male offspring hippocampal expression of HTR2c and full-length variants via epigenetic mechanisms. Altered hippocampal HTR2c expression may contribute to cognitive impairment seen in adult males in this model.

IMPACT: The key message of our article is that an adverse maternal environment increases expression of total HTR2c mRNA and protein, alters proportions of HTR2c mRNA variants, and impacts HTR2c epigenetic modifications in male offspring hippocampi relative to controls. Our findings add to the literature by providing the first report of altered HTR2c mRNA variant expression in association with altered epigenetic modifications in the hippocampus of offspring mice exposed to an adverse maternal environment. Our findings suggest that an adverse maternal environment affects the expression of genes previously determined to regulate cognitive function through an epigenetic mechanism in a sex-specific manner.

Journal Title

Pediatric research





First Page


Last Page


MeSH Keywords

Pregnancy; Female; Humans; Mice; Male; Animals; Hippocampus; Epigenesis, Genetic; DNA Methylation; RNA, Messenger; Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


Pregnancy; Animals; Hippocampus; Genetic Epigenesis; DNA Methylation; Messenger RNA; Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects

Library Record