Dynamic regulation of Z-DNA in the mouse prefrontal cortex by the RNA-editing enzyme Adar1 is required for fear extinction

Journal: Nature Neuroscience

Published: 2020-05-04

DOI: 10.1038/s41593-020-0627-5

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 15

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Research Highlight

Spiralling fear linked to spiralling DNA

© Laguna Design/Getty

© Laguna Design/Getty

The shape of DNA in the brain affects how well mice can ‘unlearn’ previously acquired fear memories, a finding that could lead to new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric conditions.

A team led by scientists at the University of Queensland showed that, during fear learning, anti-clockwise helices of DNA form in the mouse prefrontal cortex — the short-term memory centre of the brain.

During fear extinguishing, when mice were exposed to safe stimuli in similar environments, an enzyme known as ADAR1 latched onto the reverse-twisted DNA and converted the helix shape back to its normal, clockwise spiral.

Without ADAR1, the DNA got stuck in its backwards configuration and mice were unable to form non-fearful memories. The results thus provide a link between DNA flexibility and cognitive flexibility.

Supported content

  1. Nature Neuroscience 23, 718–729 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0627-5
Institutions Share
Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), UQ, Australia 0.87
Cancer and RNA Biology Unit, SVI, Australia 0.07
Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research (MacKillop), ACU, Australia 0.07

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