Developmental Iron Deficiency Dysregulates TET Activity and DNA Hydroxymethylation in the Rat Hippocampus and Cerebellum

Amanda K Barks, Montana McClelland Beeson, Timothy C. Hallstrom, Michael K. Georgieff, Phu V Tran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Iron deficiency (ID) during neurodevelopment is associated with lasting cognitive and socioemotional deficits and increased risk for neuropsychiatric disease throughout the lifespan. These neurophenotypical changes are underlain by gene dysregulation in the brain that outlasts the period of ID; however, the mechanisms by which ID establishes and maintains gene expression changes are incompletely understood. The epigenetic modification of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), or DNA hydroxymethylation, is one candidate mechanism because of its dependence on iron-containing TET enzymes. The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of fetal-neonatal ID on regional brain TET activity, Tet expression, and 5hmC in the developing rat hippocampus and cerebellum and to determine whether changes are reversible with dietary iron treatment. Timed pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were fed iron-deficient diet (ID; 4 mg/kg Fe) from gestational day 2 to generate iron-deficient anemic (IDA) offspring. Control dams were fed iron-sufficient diet (IS; 200 mg/kg Fe). At postnatal day (P)7, a subset of ID-fed litters was randomized to IS diet, generating treated IDA (TIDA) offspring. At P15, the hippocampus and cerebellum were isolated for subsequent analysis. TET activity was quantified by ELISA from nuclear proteins. Expression of Tet1, Tet2, and Tet3 was quantified by qPCR from total RNA. Global %5hmC was quantified by ELISA from genomic DNA. ID increased DNA hydroxymethylation (p = 0.0105), with a corresponding increase in TET activity (p < 0.0001) and Tet3 expression (p < 0.0001) in the P15 hippocampus. In contrast, ID reduced TET activity (p = 0.0016) in the P15 cerebellum, with minimal effect on DNA hydroxymethylation. Neonatal dietary iron treatment resulted in partial normalization of these changes in both brain regions. These results demonstrate that the TET/DNA hydroxymethylation system is disrupted by developmental ID in a brain region-specific manner. Differential regional disruption of this epigenetic system may contribute to the lasting neural circuit dysfunction and neurobehavioral dysfunction associated with developmental ID.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-90
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIH R01NS099178 to P.V.T. and NIH F30HD093285 to A.B.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Cerebellum
  • Epigenetics
  • Hippocampus
  • Iron deficiency
  • Neurodevelopment


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