James H Eubanks, PhD

Epigenetics refers to a process in which the modification of chromatin structure controls gene expression. While epigenetic factors are recognized to play critical roles in the process of oncogenesis and normal embryonic development, relatively little knowledge exists regarding how epigenetic factors regulate normal brain development and function.

The clear involvement of epigenetics in brain development has been highlighted recently by the identification that mutations in the epigenetic factor MeCP2 cause the pediatric neurological condition of Rett syndrome.

My lab is investigating the role of this factor, as well as its related family members, in normal brain function. We have obtained mice that are deficient for specific epigenetic factors that allow us to study the consequences of loss of function.

In addition, we have generated several transgenic mouse lines in which the expression of a specific factor can be induced in neuronal populations. These mice allow us to study the consequences of over-expression.

Our previous work has shown that the expression of these factors is altered in the brains of animals following stroke or epilepsy, and that pharmacological targeting of the complexes in which they reside protects the brain from a stoke-like challenge.

Thus, we are also investigating whether specific epigenetic factors play a role in insult-induced neurodegeneration, or whether they influence the tolerance of neurons to such challenges. These examinations span from whole animal behavioral studies to investigations of primary neurons in defined culture conditions.

For a list of Dr. Eubanks's publications, please visit PubMed, Scopus or ORCID.

Professor, Department of Physiology and Department of Surgery, University of Toronto