Invited Seminar: Marija Kundakovic: Sex-specific chromatin dynamics in the brain: Implications for anxiety disorders and depression
Women are at twice the risk for anxiety and depression disorders as men are, although the underlying biological factors and mechanisms are largely unknown. In this talk, Dr. Kundakovic will address this sex disparity at both the etiological and mechanistic level. She will discuss the role of fluctuating ovarian hormones as a critical biological factor contributing to the increased depression and anxiety risk in women. Cycling ovarian hormones drive brain and behavioral plasticity in both humans and rodents, and the talk will focus on animal studies in Dr. Kundakovic's lab that are revealing the molecular and receptor mechanisms that underlie this female-specific brain dynamic. She will highlight a sex hormone-driven epigenetic mechanism, namely chromatin organizational changes, that dynamically regulates neuronal gene expression and brain plasticity but may also prime the (epi)genome for psychopathology. Dr. Kundakovic will also highlight an unconventional role that chromatin dynamics may have in regulating neuronal function across the ovarian cycle, including in sex hormone-driven X chromosome plasticity and hormonally-induced epigenetic priming. Finally, she will map out future directions including experimental and clinical studies that will facilitate novel sex- and gender-informed approaches to treat depression and anxiety disorders.