Chromatin accessibility and H3K9me3 landscapes reveal long-term epigenetic effects of fetal-neonatal iron deficiency in rat hippocampus

Shirelle X. Liu, Aarthi Ramakrishnan, Li Shen, Jonathan C. Gewirtz, Michael K. Georgieff, Phu V. Tran

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Background: Iron deficiency (ID) during the fetal-neonatal period results in long-term neurodevelopmental impairments associated with pervasive hippocampal gene dysregulation. Prenatal choline supplementation partially normalizes these effects, suggesting an interaction between iron and choline in hippocampal transcriptome regulation. To understand the regulatory mechanisms, we investigated epigenetic marks of genes with altered chromatin accessibility (ATAC-seq) or poised to be repressed (H3K9me3 ChIP-seq) in iron-repleted adult rats having experienced fetal-neonatal ID exposure with or without prenatal choline supplementation. Results: Fetal-neonatal ID was induced by limiting maternal iron intake from gestational day (G) 2 through postnatal day (P) 7. Half of the pregnant dams were given supplemental choline (5.0 g/kg) from G11–18. This resulted in 4 groups at P65 (Iron-sufficient [IS], Formerly Iron-deficient [FID], IS with choline [ISch], and FID with choline [FIDch]). Hippocampi were collected from P65 iron-repleted male offspring and analyzed for chromatin accessibility and H3K9me3 enrichment. 22% and 24% of differentially transcribed genes in FID- and FIDch-groups, respectively, exhibited significant differences in chromatin accessibility, whereas 1.7% and 13% exhibited significant differences in H3K9me3 enrichment. These changes mapped onto gene networks regulating synaptic plasticity, neuroinflammation, and reward circuits. Motif analysis of differentially modified genomic sites revealed significantly stronger choline effects than early-life ID and identified multiple epigenetically modified transcription factor binding sites. Conclusions: This study reveals genome-wide, stable epigenetic changes and epigenetically modifiable gene networks associated with specific chromatin marks in the hippocampus, and lays a foundation to further elucidate iron-dependent epigenetic mechanisms that underlie the long-term effects of fetal-neonatal ID, choline, and their interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number301
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Choline
  • Chromatin accessibility
  • Epigenetics
  • H3K9me3 ChIP-seq
  • Hippocampus
  • Iron deficiency
  • Transcription


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