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Behavioural Neuroscience has been my life-long research interest and has currently incorporated molecular genetics into understanding the epigenetics of brain development and behaviour. Many chromosomes contain epigenetic marks which are applied in the germline and result in parent-of-origin expression of imprinted genes. Most of these imprinted genes function in development, notably in the placenta with a subset also influencing brain development and behaviour. We are particularly interested in the role of genomic imprinting and the constraints placed on hypothalamic development by the co-expression of certain genes in the developing placenta and hypothalamus. All ten of these co-expressed genes currently under investigation are paternally expressed and the co-adaptive effects, both in-utero for maternal provisioning and post-natally for maternal care, is an ongoing part of our work.
The behaviour of small-brained mammals is dominated by the olfactory senses, including pheromones. Our past work has provided a comprehensive understanding of pheromonal function in mice, many of these communicatory functions change with age, from being mother oriented to being sexually motivated, to being infant oriented in females. A question to be addressed, therefore, is do pheromone receptor neurons themselves change in the life history of the mouse and how is this regulated. The very nature of responding to chemical messages from the outside world inevitably exposes these neurones to toxins, temperature and humidity fluctuations which means they only live for a few weeks and need to be replaced. The main questions we are working on in this context are:-
What are the biological signals that trigger these neurons to regenerate, and what are the signals to which their extending projections (axons) respond in order to ensure they reach their appropriate target in the brain. This is not an easy question to answer since it requires stem cell neurons to be grown in culture and target neurons to be co-cultured in slices. We know that pheromones in urine and saliva act on these neurons and we know that without this kind of activity the neurones do not regenerate. Thus a second part of this investigation is to examine the regenerative power of these pheromones and how they instruct the VNO stem cells to regenerate.
- Isles, A.R., Baum, M.J., Ma, D., Keverne, E.B., Allen, N.D. (2001) Genomic imprinting: urinary odour preference in mice. Nature, 409:783-784.
- Keverne, E.B . (2002) Mammalian pheromones: from genes to behaviour. Current Biology, 12:R807-R809.
- Keverne, E.B . (2002) Pheromones, vomeronasal function and gender specific behaviour. Cell, 108:735-738.
- Brennan, P.A, Keverne, E.B. (2004) Something in the air? New insights into mammalian pheromones. Current Biology, 14:R81-R89.
- E.B. Keverne. and J.P. Curley (2004) Vasopressin, oxytocin and social behaviour. Curr. Opin.Neurobiol.,14: 777-783.
- Curely, J.P., Barton, S., Surani, A., Keverne, E.B. (2004) Coadaptation in mother and infant regulated by a paternally expressed imprinted gene. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B, 271: 1303-1309.
- Curley, J.P., Pinnock, S.B., Dickson, S.L., Thresher, R., Miyoshi, N., Surani, M.A., Keverne, E.B. (2005) Increased body fat in mice with a targeted mutation of the paternally expressed imprinted gene Peg3. FASEB J. 19:1302-1304.
- J.P. Curley and E.B. Keverne (2005) Genes, brains and mammalian social bond. Trends Ecol. Evol., 20:561-567.
- E.B. Keverne (2005) Odor here, odor there: chemosensation and reproductive function. Nat. Neurosci. 8:1637-1638.
- J. Xia, L.A. Sellers, D. Oxley, T, Smith, P. Emson and E.B. Keverne (2006) Urinary pheromones promote ERK/Akt phosphorylation, regeneration and survival of vomeronsal (V2R) neurons. Eur.J. Neurosci. 24: 3333-3342.
- E.B. Keverne (2006) Understanding well-being in the evolutionary context of brain development. In “The Science of Well-being”, ed by F.A. Huppert, N.Baylis and E.B. Keverne, pp 148-168. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
- E.B. Keverne (2006) Trophoblast regulation of maternal function and behaviour. In “Biology and Pathology of Trophoblast, Ed by A. Moffet, C. Loke and A. McLaren, pp 148-168. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
- W.T. Swaney, J.P. Curley, F.A. Champagne, E.B. Keverne (2007) Genomic imprinting mediates sexual experience-dependent olfactory learning in male mice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci, USA104: 6084-6089. E.B. Keverne (2007) Genomic imprinting and the evolution of sex differences in mammalian reproductive strategies. Adv. Genet. 59: 215-241.