Neuroepigenetics

PI's:    
Dr. D. Van den Hove (coordinator)
Prof. B. Rutten (co-coordinator)
Dr. G. Kenis (co-coordinator)
Dr. L. De Nijs (co-coordinator; chair Neuroepigenetics meeting series)
Dr. L. Eijssen
Prof. K.P. Lesch

Postdoc:
Dr. E. Pishva

PhD students:
G. Al Jowf
M. Ali
K. Bassil
M. Bustelo
K. Choe
P. Koulousakis
A. Ning
D. Paes
R. Riemens
J. Roubroeks
C. Snijders
A. Thomson
J. Zöller

Associated Researchers:    
Prof. Dr. T. Van Amelsvoort
Dr. R. Delgado-Morales
Dr. S. Gülöksüz
Dr. G. Hoogland
Dr. N. Leibold
Prof. Dr. J. van Os
Prof. Dr. J. Prickaerts
Dr. R. Schmidt-Kastner
Dr. I. Ramaekers
Prof. Dr. K. Schruers
Prof. Dr. F. Verhey
Dr. P-J. Visser


Focus of research:   
Understanding the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the pathophysiology of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

The organization of DNA into chromatin enables the cell to use powerful regulatory mechanisms broadly defined as epigenetics. Epigenetic changes are reversible and responsive to environmental influences, unlike genetic mutations, which represent rare events with permanent consequences on genes. Research on Neuroepigenetics and environmental epigenetics aims to characterize the molecular basis that underlies sensitivity to environmental exposures and associated gene-environment (GxE) interactions in (neuro)psychiatric and neurodegenerative phenotypes and disorders, with a particular interest in epigenetics.

This program examines several aspects of epigenetic regulation, such as DNA methylation at promoter sites, chromatin modifications, gene silencing induced by miRNAs, and other novel epigenetic mechanisms, for their roles in disease and dysfunction consequent to environmental conditions. The ultimate goal of this program is to identify molecular and cellular pathways that are causally involved in the etiologies of psychiatric disorders, to identify biologic markers that predict disease onset and course, to determine the reversibility of neurobiological changes, and to find novel preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Neuroepigenetics focuses on two main research themes/questions. First, what are the neurobiological underpinnings of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative phenotypes? Second, what is the role of epigenetic mechanisms in mediating gene-environment interactions in and long-term consequences of (developmental) environmental perturbations? These research themes/questions are applied to Alzheimer’s disease, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and epilepsy. State-of-the-art technologies (e.g. ranging from epigenome-wide association studies [EWAS] to single cell methylation profiling) are being employed to analyze the epigenetic changes in single genes, signaling pathways or the entire genome. Research involves various innovative, translational projects using in vitro cell cultures (e.g. in vitro epigenetic editing), in vivo animal models (e.g. in vivo epigenetic editing), and human tissues and/or biologic samples to examine (epi)genetic modifications and to determine the precise mechanism responsible for these changes.

Of note, the Neuroepigenetics group is part of a broader initiative at Maastricht University, bringing together all divisions within MHeNs in a collaborative approach to further investigate the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders in a translational setting. As such, these lines of research are supported by grants from the Internationale Stichting Alzheimer Onderzoek (ISAO), Alzheimer Netherlands (AN), the European Union (e.g. EU-GEI [FP7], see http://www.eu-gei.eu; EPI-AD [H2020-JPND], see http://www.epi-ad.eu), NWO-Veni, NWO-Vidi and Hersenstichting Nederland.