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1.  Redox-based epigenetic status in drug addiction: a potential contributor to gene priming and a mechanistic rationale for metabolic intervention 
Alcohol and other drugs of abuse, including psychostimulants and opioids, can induce epigenetic changes: a contributing factor for drug addiction, tolerance, and associated withdrawal symptoms. DNA methylation is a major epigenetic mechanism and it is one of more than 200 methylation reactions supported by methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Levels of SAM are controlled by cellular redox status via the folate and vitamin B12-dependent enzyme methionine synthase (MS). For example, under oxidative conditions MS is inhibited, diverting its substrate homocysteine (HCY) to the trans sulfuration pathway. Alcohol, dopamine, and morphine, can alter intracellular levels of glutathione (GSH)-based cellular redox status, subsequently affecting SAM levels and DNA methylation status. Here, existing evidence is presented in a coherent manner to propose a novel hypothesis implicating the involvement of redox-based epigenetic changes in drug addiction. Further, we discuss how a “gene priming” phenomenon can contribute to the maintenance of redox and methylation status homeostasis under various stimuli including drugs of abuse. Additionally, a new mechanistic rationale for the use of metabolic interventions/redox-replenishers as symptomatic treatment of alcohol and other drug addiction and associated withdrawal symptoms is also provided. Hence, the current review article strengthens the hypothesis that neuronal metabolism has a critical bidirectional coupling with epigenetic changes in drug addiction exemplified by the link between redox-based metabolic changes and resultant epigenetic consequences under the effect of drugs of abuse.
PMCID: PMC4302946  PMID: 25657617
glutathione; s-adenosylmethionine; EAAT3; drug addiction; withdrawal; gene priming; N-acetylcysteine
2.  Age-Dependent Decrease and Alternative Splicing of Methionine Synthase mRNA in Human Cerebral Cortex and an Accelerated Decrease in Autism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56927.
The folate and vitamin B12-dependent enzyme methionine synthase (MS) is highly sensitive to cellular oxidative status, and lower MS activity increases production of the antioxidant glutathione, while simultaneously decreasing more than 200 methylation reactions, broadly affecting metabolic activity. MS mRNA levels in postmortem human cortex from subjects across the lifespan were measured and a dramatic progressive biphasic decrease of more than 400-fold from 28 weeks of gestation to 84 years was observed. Further analysis revealed alternative splicing of MS mRNA, including deletion of folate-binding domain exons and age-dependent deletion of exons from the cap domain, which protects vitamin B12 (cobalamin) from oxidation. Although three species of MS were evident at the protein level, corresponding to full-length and alternatively spliced mRNA transcripts, decreasing mRNA levels across the lifespan were not associated with significant changes in MS protein or methionine levels. MS mRNA levels were significantly lower in autistic subjects, especially at younger ages, and this decrease was replicated in cultured human neuronal cells by treatment with TNF-α, whose CSF levels are elevated in autism. These novel findings suggest that rather than serving as a housekeeping enzyme, MS has a broad and dynamic role in coordinating metabolism in the brain during development and aging. Factors adversely affecting MS activity, such as oxidative stress, can be a source of risk for neurological disorders across the lifespan via their impact on methylation reactions, including epigenetic regulation of gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3577685  PMID: 23437274
3.  Prenatal and Postnatal Epigenetic Programming: Implications for GI, Immune, and Neuronal Function in Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:190930.
Although autism is first and foremost a disorder of the central nervous system, comorbid dysfunction of the gastrointestinal (GI) and immune systems is common, suggesting that all three systems may be affected by common molecular mechanisms. Substantial systemic deficits in the antioxidant glutathione and its precursor, cysteine, have been documented in autism in association with oxidative stress and impaired methylation. DNA and histone methylation provide epigenetic regulation of gene expression during prenatal and postnatal development. Prenatal epigenetic programming (PrEP) can be affected by the maternal metabolic and nutritional environment, whereas postnatal epigenetic programming (PEP) importantly depends upon nutritional support provided through the GI tract. Cysteine absorption from the GI tract is a crucial determinant of antioxidant capacity, and systemic deficits of glutathione and cysteine in autism are likely to reflect impaired cysteine absorption. Excitatory amino acid transporter 3 (EAAT3) provides cysteine uptake for GI epithelial, neuronal, and immune cells, and its activity is decreased during oxidative stress. Based upon these observations, we propose that neurodevelopmental, GI, and immune aspects of autism each reflect manifestations of inadequate antioxidant capacity, secondary to impaired cysteine uptake by the GI tract. Genetic and environmental factors that adversely affect antioxidant capacity can disrupt PrEP and/or PEP, increasing vulnerability to autism.
PMCID: PMC3420412  PMID: 22934169
4.  Role of a Redox-Based Methylation Switch in mRNA Life Cycle (Pre- and Post-Transcriptional Maturation) and Protein Turnover: Implications in Neurological Disorders 
Homeostatic synaptic scaling in response to neuronal stimulus or activation, and due to changes in cellular niche, is an important phenomenon for memory consolidation, retrieval, and other similar cognitive functions (Turrigiano and Nelson, 2004). Neurological disorders and cognitive disabilities in autism, Rett syndrome, schizophrenia, dementia, etc., are strongly correlated to alterations in protein expression (both synaptic and cytoplasmic; Cajigas et al., 2010). This correlation suggests that efficient temporal regulation of synaptic protein expression is important for synaptic plasticity. In addition, equilibrium between mRNA processing, protein translation, and protein turnover is a critical sensor/trigger for recording synaptic information, normal cognition, and behavior (Cajigas et al., 2010). Thus a regulatory switch, which controls the lifespan, maturation, and processing of mRNA, might influence cognition and adaptive behavior. Here, we propose a two part novel hypothesis that methylation might act as this suggested coordinating switch to critically regulate mRNA maturation at (1) the pre-transcription level, by regulating precursor-RNA processing into mRNA, via other non-coding RNAs and their influence on splicing phenomenon, and (2) the post-transcription level by modulating the regulatory functions of ribonucleoproteins and RNA binding proteins in mRNA translation, dendritic translocation as well as protein synthesis and synaptic turnover. DNA methylation changes are well recognized and highly correlated to gene expression levels as well as, learning and memory; however, RNA methylation changes are recently characterized and yet their functional implications are not established. This review article provides some insight on the intriguing consequences of changes in methylation levels on mRNA life-cycle. We also suggest that, since methylation is under the control of glutathione anti-oxidant levels (Lertratanangkoon et al., 1997), the redox status of neurons might be the central regulatory switch for methylation-based changes in mRNA processing, protein expression, and turnover. Lastly, we also describe experimental methods and techniques which might help researchers to evaluate the suggested hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3382963  PMID: 22740813
alternative splicing; FMRP; glutathione; homeostatis; redox status; Rett syndrome; S-adenosylmethionine; synaptic scaling

Results 1-4 (4)