About this Research Topic
Epigenetic mechanisms are deeply entrenched in the regulation of gene expression, essential for proper function of the central nervous system throughout the lifetime of an organism and enable its adaptation to the environment. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that neuropsychiatric research has quickly recognized the potential merits of the vast array of epigenetic processes and players. These include different types of DNA methylation, post-translational histone modifications and their effector molecules, as well as regulatory mechanisms pertaining to the diversity of RNA processing (e.g., RNA-methylation, miRNAs, long noncoding RNAs, circular RNAs or the balance of RNA binding proteins), and possibly even changes to the global 3D genome arrangement.
In particular, neuro-epigenetic mechanisms appeared to be the ideal platform to explain disorders with multifactorial and polygenic etiology that were seemingly lacking (classic mendelian) heritability. The simultaneous observation that stressors have the potential to trigger symptoms in stress-sensitive diseases such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or Schizophrenia gave rise to the concept of 'gene x environment' interaction. Herein, the epigenetic machinery serves as the interface between environ-mental factors (e.g., stressors) and the genome of an individual; this interaction may mitigate adverse disease trajectories, when detrimental factors hit a vulnerable genetic makeup in a person with a predisposition for a disorder.
While we are firmly convinced that the pleiotropy of epigenetic studies in neuropsychiatric research has indeed advanced the field at large, we also feel that it is about time to refine the mission of neuro-epigenetics, heading for the much-needed understanding of multifactorial diseases from a complex and holistic framework. This conceptual shift will help the field to arrive at a point that embraces an unbiased understanding which neither denies the importance of genetics nor the impact of environmental components, including stress, diet, exercise and sleep quality – knowledge that can be vital in diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies.
With this Research Topic, we would like to provide a collection of articles which discuss promising neuro-epigenetic findings with a good potential for delivering translational value. Obviously, this may need to extend to the identification of past and current obstacles in the field, such as the lack of causal connections due to correlative findings; as well as the advantages and perhaps disadvantages of using animal models to study disease mechanisms in the context of exploration of their molecular causes, identification of biomarkers, and drug development.
We specifically welcome Original Research and Review papers which attempt to integrate newer findings and technological advances, including single cell epigenomics, 3D genomics, epigenome editing and critical discussions on the connections between the genetic makeup and epigenetic remodeling. We would like to encourage the submission on all types of stress- and lifestyle sensitive diseases, ranging from mental illness (MDD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and addiction), neurodevelop-mental disorders (Autism Spectrum Disorder) to neurodegenerative disease, either in humans or in animal models.
Keywords: “Gene x Environment” interaction, polygenic disease, animal models, post mortem brain, blood derived biomarkers
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.