Previous work from our group described dynamic changes in DNA methylation (5mC) occurring during human fetal brain development. Other epigenetic processes operating during this period have not been extensively explored – of particular interest is DNA hydroxymethylation (5hmC), a modification that we have found to be enriched in the human brain, and which is hypothesized to play an important role in neuronal function, learning and memory.
In our latest paper we have quantified 5hmC across the genome of human fetal brain samples spanning 23 to 184 days post-conception. We identify widespread changes in 5hmC occurring during human brain development, notable sex-differences in 5hmC in the fetal brain, and interactions between 5mC and 5hmC at specific sites. We also identify loci where 5hmC in the fetal brain is associated with genetic variation.
This study represents the first systematic analysis of dynamic changes in 5hmC across human neurodevelopment and highlights the potential importance of this modification in the human brain. To accompany our paper we have generated a searchable database of our fetal brain 5hmC data is available as a resource to the research community.