Neurogenesis is defined as generation and maturation of new neurons. Postnatal neurogenesis, a process considered important for neuroplasticity and memory, is regulated at multiple molecular levels. Deciphering these regulatory mechanisms represents a step towards understanding the development and plasticity of postnatal mammalian brains, and realizing the therapeutic potential of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSCs). Epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation and histone modification, are known to play significant roles in the modulation of stem cell proliferation and differentiation. Methyl-CpG binding proteins, including MBD1 and MeCP2, are central players in epigenetic regulation, and can translate DNA methylation into gene expression changes. MBD1 deficiency has been reported in sporadic human cancers, consistent with its role in cellular growth control. Despite its ubiquitous expression pattern, we found that MBD1 deficiency in mice results largely in brain-associated phenotypes during the postnatal period, including impaired adult neurogenesis and related behavioral deficits such as defective hippocampus-dependent learning and susceptibility to anxiety and depression. Recently, MBD1 mutations were found in a subset of autistic patients and were correlated with more severe phenotypes. However, the precise role of MBD1 in postnatal neuronal development and molecular pathway mediating its effect is not fully clear. During the past three-year funding period, we have discovered that MBD1 regulates the expression of a number of miRNAs and some of these miRNAs exhibit an important regulatory role in neurogenesis. For example, miR-184 promotes proliferation and represses differentiation of adult NSCs by repressing the expression of Numblike (Nbl), a regulator of Notch signaling. The complete picture of this regulatory network is still lacking. In addition to its role in NSC proliferation and neuronal differentiation, we discovered that MBD1 also had important roles in maturation of new neurons. Indeed, some of MBD1-regulated miRNAs have been implicated in neuronal maturation. Taken together, these breakthrough discoveries serve as the basis of this proposal which is aimed towards a better understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms controlling multiple stages of postnatal neurogenesis. We will test the hypothesis that MBD1 regulation of miRNAs and their subsequent downstream targets is critical for postnatal neurogenesis. Therefore we propose to determine how MBD1-regulated miRNAs govern the proliferation and differentiation of aNSCs (Aim 1), to determine whether and how MBD1-regulated miRNAs modulate the maturation of new neurons (Aim 2), and to explore the mechanism underlying MBD1 regulation of small RNAs (Aim 3). The results will provide novel insights into the epigenetic mechanisms governing postnatal neurogenesis.

Public Health Relevance

Characterizing the role of MBD1 and its regulated noncoding small RNAs in the postnatal neurogenesis using our unique model system will provide insights into the novel epigenetic mechanisms underlying mammalian neuronal development and neuroplasticity, which could have significant implication in understanding and treating mental disorders such as autism, depression, and learning deficits.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters Study Section (CNNT)
Program Officer
Beckel-Mitchener, Andrea C
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Wisconsin Madison
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
Zip Code
Patzlaff, Natalie E; Shen, Minjie; Zhao, Xinyu (2018) Regulation of Adult Neurogenesis by the Fragile X Family of RNA Binding Proteins. Brain Plast 3:205-223
Mo, Kai; Wu, Shaogen; Gu, Xiyao et al. (2018) MBD1 Contributes to the Genesis of Acute Pain and Neuropathic Pain by Epigenetic Silencing of Oprm1 and Kcna2 Genes in Primary Sensory Neurons. J Neurosci 38:9883-9899
Liu, Botao; Li, Yue; Stackpole, Emily E et al. (2018) Regulatory discrimination of mRNAs by FMRP controls mouse adult neural stem cell differentiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E11397-E11405
Eisinger, Brian E; Zhao, Xinyu (2018) Identifying molecular mediators of environmentally enhanced neurogenesis. Cell Tissue Res 371:7-21
Li, Meng; Zhao, Huashan; Ananiev, Gene E et al. (2017) Establishment of Reporter Lines for Detecting Fragile X Mental Retardation (FMR1) Gene Reactivation in Human Neural Cells. Stem Cells 35:158-169
Jobe, Emily M; Zhao, Xinyu (2017) DNA Methylation and Adult Neurogenesis. Brain Plast 3:5-26
Bayguinov, Peter O; Ma, Yihe; Gao, Yu et al. (2017) Imaging Voltage in Genetically Defined Neuronal Subpopulations with a Cre Recombinase-Targeted Hybrid Voltage Sensor. J Neurosci 37:9305-9319
Zhang, Peng; Rausch, Cathia; Hastert, Florian D et al. (2017) Methyl-CpG binding domain protein 1 regulates localization and activity of Tet1 in a CXXC3 domain-dependent manner. Nucleic Acids Res 45:7118-7136
Sun, Linlin; Zhao, Jian-Yuan; Gu, Xiyao et al. (2017) Nerve injury-induced epigenetic silencing of opioid receptors controlled by DNMT3a in primary afferent neurons. Pain 158:1153-1165
Patzlaff, Natalie E; Nemec, Kelsey M; Malone, Sydney G et al. (2017) Fragile X related protein 1 (FXR1P) regulates proliferation of adult neural stem cells. Hum Mol Genet 26:1340-1352

Showing the most recent 10 out of 45 publications