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BACKGROUND: Epigenetic mechanisms play fundamental roles in brain function and behavior and stressors such as social isolation can alter animal behavior via epigenetic mechanisms. However, due to cellular heterogeneity, identifying cell-type-specific epigenetic changes in the brain is challenging. Here, we report the first use of a modified isolation of nuclei tagged in specific cell type (INTACT) method in behavioral epigenetics of Drosophila melanogaster, a method we call mini-INTACT.
RESULTS: Using ChIP-seq on mini-INTACT purified dopaminergic nuclei, we identified epigenetic signatures in socially isolated and socially enriched Drosophila males. Social experience altered the epigenetic landscape in clusters of genes involved in transcription and neural function. Some of these alterations could be predicted by expression changes of four transcription factors and the prevalence of their binding sites in several clusters. These transcription factors were previously identified as activity-regulated genes, and their knockdown in dopaminergic neurons reduced the effects of social experience on sleep.
CONCLUSIONS: Our work enables the use of Drosophila as a model for cell-type-specific behavioral epigenetics and establishes that social environment shifts the epigenetic landscape in dopaminergic neurons. Four activity-related transcription factors are required in dopaminergic neurons for the effects of social environment on sleep.