In rats, variations in the levels of neuromodulatory molecules and in the expression of their receptors are observed during pregnancy and postpartum. These changes may contribute to the development and management of maternal behavior. The frequency of licking the pups is used to evaluate maternal care, having mothers with low licking (LL) and high licking (HL) frequencies. Previously, we found that HL had increased levels of transcriptional expression of the receptors for serotonin (HTR1a, HTR1b), estrogen (Erα), dopamine (D1a), and prolactin (Prlr) than LL in the olfactory bulb (OB); however, the molecular mechanisms behind this phenomenon are unknown. Since evidences pointed out that epigenetic marks, which may alter gene expression, are modulated by environmental factors such as exercise, diet, maternal care, and xenobiotic exposure, our objective was to verify the acetylation levels of histone-H4 in the OB of LL and HL rats. Maternal behavior was studied for the first 7 postpartum days. LL (n = 4) and HL (n = 5) mothers were selected according to the behavior of licking their pups. Acetylation levels of histone-H4 were determined using the Global Histone-H4 Acetylation Assay Kit and expressed as ng/mg protein (mean ± SD). Analysis revealed that HL (278.36 ± 68.95) had increased H4 acetylation levels than LL (183.24 ± 73.05; p = 0.045). The enhanced expression of the previously studied receptors in the OB could be related, at least in part, to the hyperacetylation status of histone-H4 here observed. Afterward, the modulation of histone acetylation levels could exert a pivotal role through molecular mechanisms involved in the different patterns of maternal behavior.
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We thank PROAP/UFCSPA, CAPES and FAPERGS for financial support.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no financial conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of CONCEA (Conselho Nacional de Controle de Experimentação Animal) and were approved by the Ethics Committee of UFCSPA (Protocol Number 788/09).
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