Nasser H Zawia

University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, United States

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Publications (64)273.76 Total impact

  • Lina Adwan, Gehad M Subaiea, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Environmental exposure to lead (Pb) early in life results in a latent upregulation of genes and products associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD), particularly the plaque forming protein amyloid beta (Aβ). Furthermore, animals exposed to Pb as infants develop cognitive decline and memory impairments in old age. Studies from our lab demonstrated that tolfenamic acid lowers the levels of the amyloid β precursor protein (APP) and its aggregative cleavage product Aβ by inducing the degradation of the transcription factor specificity protein 1 (Sp1). These changes were accompanied by cognitive improvement in transgenic APP knock-in mice. In this study, we examined the effects of tolfenamic acid on beta site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) which is responsible for Aβ production and tested its ability to reverse Pb-induced upregulation in the amyloidogenic pathway. Mice were administered tolfenamic acid for one month and BACE1 gene expression as well as its enzymatic activity were analyzed in the cerebral cortex. Tolfenamic acid was also tested for its ability to reverse changes in Sp1, APP and Aβ that were upregulated by Pb in vitro. Differentiated SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells were either left unexposed, or sequentially exposed to Pb followed by tolfenamic acid. Our results show that tolfenamic acid reduced BACE1 gene expression and enzyme activity in mice. In neuroblastoma cells, Pb upregulated Sp1, APP and Aβ, while tolfenamic acid lowered their expression. These results along with previous data from our lab provide evidence that tolfenamic acid, a drug that has been used for decades for migraine, represents a candidate which can reduce the pathology of AD and may mitigate the damage of environmental risk factors associated with this disease.
    Neuropharmacology 01/2014; · 4.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background/Aims: The small molecule, Tolfenamic acid (TA) has shown anti-cancer activity in pre-clinical models and is currently in Phase I clinical trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. Since specificity and toxicity are major concerns for investigational agents, we tested the effect of TA on specific targets, and assessed the cellular and organismal toxicity representing pre-clinical studies in cancer. Methods: Panc1, L3.6pl, and MiaPaCa-2 (pancreatic cancer), hTERT-HPNE(normal), and differentiated/un-differentiated SH-SY5Y (neuroblastoma) cells were treated with increasing concentrations of TA. Cell viability and effect on specific molecular targets, Sp1 and survivin were determined. Athymic nude mice were treated with vehicle or TA (50mg/kg, 3times/week for 6 weeks) and alterations in the growth pattern, hematocrit, and histopathology of gut, liver, and stomach were monitored. Results: TA treatment decreased cell proliferation and inhibited the expression of Sp1 and survivin in cancer cells while only subtle response was observed in normal (hTERT-HPNE) and differentiated SH-SY5Y cells. Mice studies revealed no effect on body weight and hematocrit. Furthermore, TA regimen did not cause signs of internal-bleeding or damage to vital tissues in mice. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that TA selectively inhibits malignant cell growth acting on specific targets and its chronic treatment did not cause apparent toxicity in nude mice. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.
    Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry 09/2013; 32(3):675-686. · 3.42 Impact Factor
  • Syed Waseem Bihaqi, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Late Onset Alzheimer Disease (LOAD) constitutes the majority of AD cases (∼90%). Amyloidosis and tau pathology, which are present in AD brains, appear to be sporadic in nature. We have previously shown that infantile lead (Pb) exposure is associated with a change in the expression and regulation of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its beta amyloid (Aβ) products in old age. Here we report that infantile Pb exposure elevated the mRNA and protein levels of tau as well as its transcriptional regulators namely specificity protein 1 and 3 (Sp1 and Sp3) in aged primates. These changes were also accompanied by an enhancement in site-specific tau phosphorylation as well as an increase in the mRNA and protein levels of cyclin dependent kinase 5 (cdk5). There was also a change in the protein ratio of p35/p25 with more Serine/Threonine phosphatase activity present in aged primates exposed to Pb as infants. These molecular alterations favored abundant tau phosphorylation and immunoreactivity in the frontal cortex of aged primates with prior Pb exposure. These findings provide more evidence that neurodegenerative diseases may be products of environmental influences that occur during the development.
    NeuroToxicology 08/2013; · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Early-life lead (Pb) exposure induces overexpression of the amyloid beta precursor protein and its amyloid beta product in older rats and primates. We exposed rodents to Pb during different life span periods and examined cognitive function in old age and its impact on biomarkers associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Morris, Y, and the elevated plus mazes were used. Western blot, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were used to study the levels of AD biomarkers. Cognitive impairment was observed in mice exposed as infants but not as adults. Overexpression of AD-related genes (amyloid beta precursor protein and β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1) and their products, as well as their transcriptional regulator-specificity protein 1 (Sp1)-occurred only in older mice with developmental exposure to Pb. A window of vulnerability to Pb neurotoxicity exists in the developing brain that can influence AD pathogenesis and cognitive decline in old age.
    Alzheimer's & dementia: the journal of the Alzheimer's Association 07/2013; · 14.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tolfenamic acid lowers the levels of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and amyloid beta (Aβ) when administered to C57BL/6 mice by lowering their transcriptional regulator specificity protein 1 (SP1). To determine whether changes upstream in the amyloidogenic pathway that forms Aβ plaques would improve cognitive outcomes, we administered tolfenamic acid for 34 days to hemizygous R1.40 transgenic mice. After the characterization of cognitive deficits in these mice, assessment of spatial learning and memory functions revealed that treatment with tolfenamic acid attenuated long-term memory and working memory deficits, determined using Morris water maze and the Y-maze. These improvements occurred within a shorter period of exposure than that seen with clinically approved drugs. Cognitive enhancement was accompanied by reduction in the levels of the SP1 protein (but not messenger RNA [mRNA]), followed by lowering both the mRNA and the protein levels of APP and subsequent Aβ levels. These findings provide evidence that tolfenamic acid can disrupt the pathologic processes associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and are relevant to its scheduled biomarker study in AD patients.
    Neurobiology of aging 04/2013; · 5.94 Impact Factor
  • Lina Adwan, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia in the elderly. It is characterized by the deposition of two forms of aggregates within the brain, the amyloid β plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles. Currently, no disease-modifying agent is approved for the treatment of AD. Approved pharmacotherapies target the peripheral symptoms but they do not prevent or slow down the progression of the disease. Although several disease-modifying immunotherapeutic agents are in clinical development, many have failed due to lack of efficacy or serious adverse events. Epigenetic changes including DNA methylation and histone modifications are involved in learning and memory and have been recently highlighted for holding promise as potential targets for AD therapeutics. Dynamic and latent epigenetic alterations are incorporated in AD pathological pathways and present valuable reversible targets for AD and other neurological disorders. The approval of epigenetic drugs for cancer treatment has opened the door for the development of epigenetic drugs for other disorders including neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, methyl donors and histone deacetylase inhibitors are being investigated for possible therapeutic effects to rescue memory and cognitive decline found in such disorders. This review explores the area of epigenetics for potential AD interventions and presents the most recent findings in this field.
    Pharmacology [?] Therapeutics 04/2013; · 7.79 Impact Factor
  • Hany Alashwal, Remi Dosunmu, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: The progressive and latent nature of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) indicates the role of epigenetic modification in disease susceptibility. Previous studies from our lab show that developmental exposure to lead (Pb) perturbs the expression of AD-associated proteins. In order to better understand the role of DNA methylation as an epigenetic modifications mechanism in gene expression regulation, an integrative study of global gene expression and methylation profiles is essential. Given the different formats of gene expression and methylation data, combining these data for integrative analysis can be challenging. In this paper we describe a method to integrate and analyze gene expression and methylation arrays. Methylation array raw data contain the signal intensities of each probe of CpG sites, whereas gene expression data measure the signal intensity values of genes. In order to combine these data, methylation data of CpG sites have to be associated with genes.
    NeuroToxicology 06/2012; · 2.65 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Remi Dosunmu, Hany Alashwal, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, we assessed global gene expression patterns in adolescent mice exposed to lead (Pb) as infants and their aged siblings to identify reprogrammed genes. Global expression on postnatal day 20 and 700 was analyzed and genes that were down- and up-regulated (≥2 fold) were identified, clustered and analyzed for their relationship to DNA methylation. About 150 genes were differentially expressed in old age. In normal aging, we observed an up-regulation of genes related to the immune response, metal-binding, metabolism and transcription/transduction coupling. Prior exposure to Pb revealed a repression in these genes suggesting that disturbances in developmental stages of the brain compromise the ability to defend against age-related stressors, thus promoting the neurodegenerative process. Overexpression and repression of genes corresponded with their DNA methylation profile.
    Mechanisms of ageing and development 05/2012; 133(6):435-43. · 4.18 Impact Factor
  • N H Zawia, D K Lahiri
    Current Alzheimer research 02/2012; 9(5):525-6. · 4.97 Impact Factor
  • Source
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    ABSTRACT: Late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) is a non-familial, progressive neurodegenerative disease and the most prominent form of dementia in the elderly. Accumulating evidence suggests that LOAD not only results from the combined effects of variation in a number of genes and environmental factors, but also from epigenetic abnormalities such as histone modifications or DNA methylation. In comparison to monogenic diseases, LOAD exhibits numerous anomalies that suggest an epigenetic component in disease etiology. Evidence against a monogenic course and for an epigenetic component include: 1) the dominance of sporadic cases over familial ones and the low estimated concordance rates for monozygotic twins; 2) gender specific susceptibility and course of disease; 3) parent-of-origin effects, and late age of onset; 4) brain chromatin abnormalities, non-Mendelian inheritance patterns, and atypical levels of folate and homocysteine; and 5) monoallelic expression patterns of susceptibility genes [1]. The epigenome is particularly susceptible to deregulation during early embryonic and neonatal periods and thus disturbances during these periods can have latent lasting effects. The Latent Early-life Associated Regulation (LEARn) model attempts to explain these consequences from a brain specific point of view. In the present review we present the evidence that support the role of epigenetics in the development of AD and explore the potential pathways and mechanisms that may be involved.
    Current Alzheimer research 02/2012; 9(5):574-88. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a leading cause of aging related dementia and has been extensively studied by several groups around the world. A general consensus, based on neuropathology, genetics and cellular and animal models, is that the 4 kDa amyloid β protein (Aβ) triggers a toxic cascade that induces microtubule-associated protein τ (MAPT) hyperphosphorylation and deposition. Together, these lesions lead to neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration, modeled in animals, that ultimately causes dementia. Genetic studies show that a simple duplication of the Aβ precursor (APP) gene, as occurs in Down syndrome (trisomy 21), with a 1.5-fold increase in expression, can cause dementia with the complete AD associated neuropathology. The most fully characterized form of AD is early onset familial AD (FAD). Unfortunately, by far the most common form of AD is late onset AD (LOAD). FAD has well-identified autosomally dominant genetic causes, absent in LOAD. It is reasonable to hypothesize that environmental influences play a much stronger role in etiology of LOAD than of FAD. Since AD pathology in LOAD closely resembles FAD with accumulation of both Aβ and MAPT, it is likely that the environmental factors foster accumulation of these proteins in a manner similar to FAD mutations. Therefore, it is important to identify environmentally driven changes that "phenocopy" FAD in order to find ways to prevent LOAD. Epigenetic changes in expression are complex but stable determinants of many complex traits. Some aspects are regulated by prenatal and early post-natal development, others punctuate specific periods of maturation, and still others occur throughout life, mediating predictable changes that take place during various developmental stages. Environmental agents such as mercury, lead, and pesticides can disrupt the natural epigenetic program and lead to developmental deficits, mental retardation, feminization, and other complex syndromes. In this review we discuss latent early- life associated regulation (LEARn), where apparently temporary changes, induced by environmental agents, become latent and present themselves again at maturity or senescence to increase production of Aβ that may cause AD. The model provides us with a novel direction for identifying potentially harmful agents that may induce neurodegeneration and dementia later in life and provides hope that we may be able to prevent age-related neurodegenerative disease by "detoxifying" our environment.
    Current Alzheimer research 01/2012; 9(5):589-99. · 4.97 Impact Factor
  • Syed Waseem Bihaqi, Nasser H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) is typical of the majority of Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases (~90%), and has no clear genetic association. Previous studies from our lab suggest that an epigenetic component could be involved. Developmental exposure of primates and rodents to lead (Pb) predetermined the expression of AD-related genes, such as the amyloid-β precursor protein (AβPP), later in life. In addition to AβPP, the preponderance of genes that were reprogrammed was rich in CpG dinucleotides implicating DNA methylation and chromatin restructuring in their regulation. To examine the involvement of epigenetic intermediates in Pb-induced alterations in gene expression, differentiated SH-SY5Y cells were exposed to a series of Pb concentrations (5-100 μM) for 48 h and were analyzed for the protein expression of AβPP, β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), specificity protein 1 and 3 (Sp1, Sp3) and epigenetic intermediates like DNA methyltransferase 1, 3a (Dnmt1, Dnmt3a) and methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) involved in DNA methylation six days after the exposure had ceased. Western blot analysis indicated a significant latent elevation in AD biomarkers as well as the transcription factors Sp1 and Sp3, accompanied by a significant reduction in the protein levels of DNA methylating enzymes. RT-PCR analysis of Dnmt1, Dnmt3a and MeCP2 indicated a significant down-regulation of the mRNA levels. These data suggest that Pb interferes with DNA methylating capacity in these cells, thus altering the expression of AD-related genes.
    Current Alzheimer research 01/2012; 9(5):555-62. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The beginnings of late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) are still unknown; however, the progressive and latent nature of neurodegeneration suggests that the triggering event occurs earlier in life. Aging primates exposed to lead (Pb) as infants exhibited an overexpression of the amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP), amyloid-β (Aβ) and enhanced pathologic neurodegeneration. In this study, we measured the latent expression of a wide array of brain-specific genes and explored whether epigenetic pathways mediated such latent molecular and pathological changes. We analyzed the levels of proteins associated with DNA methylation, i.e., DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1), DNA methyltransferase3a (Dnmt3a), methyl-CpG binding protein-2 (MeCP2) and those involved in histone modifications (acetylated and methylated histones). We monitored the expression profiles of these intermediates across the lifespan and analyzed their levels in 23-year-old primate brains exposed to Pb as infants. Developmental Pb exposure altered the gene expression of the arrayed genes, which were predominately repressed, with fewer upregulated genes. The latent induction and repression of genes was accompanied by a significant decrease in the protein levels of Dnmts, MeCP2, and proteins involved in histone modifications. The attenuation of DNA methylation enzymes is consistent with hypomethylating effects, which promote upregulation of the genes, while the alterations in the histone modifiers are associated with the repression of genes. Hence, we deduce that early life exposure to Pb can reprogram gene expression resulting in both upregulation and down-regulation of genes through alternate epigenetic pathways contributing to an enhancement in neurodegeneration in old age.
    Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD 09/2011; 27(4):819-33. · 4.17 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence from our laboratory suggests that tolfenamic acid has a potential for slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) through lowering cortical levels of the β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its pathogenic amyloid beta (Aβ) intermediates [1]. In this study, we examined the ability of tolfenamic acid to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) by predicting its logBB and logPS values, the indexes of BBB permeability, using computational models. We also determined, via in vitro methods, the brain penetration capacity factor [(K(IAM)/MW(4))x10(10)] using phosphatidylcholine column chromatography. The obtained logBB, logPS and (K(IAM)/MW(4))x10(10) values predicted that tolfenamic acid can passively transfer into the central nervous system (CNS). These results were validated in vivo using LC-MS analysis after administration of tolfenamic acid intravenously to guinea pigs and mice. The present study provides the first evidence of the ability of tolfenamic acid to cross the BBB and offers a comparative analysis of approaches used to predict the ability of compounds to penetrate into the brain.
    Current Alzheimer research 05/2011; 8(8):860-7. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides are related to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The search for therapeutic strategies that lower these peptides has mainly focused on the proteolytic processing of the β-amyloid precursor protein (APP), and other post-transcriptional pathways. The transcription factor specificity protein 1 (Sp1) is vital for the regulation of several genes involved in AD including APP and the beta site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1). We have previously reported that tolfenamic acid promotes the degradation of Sp1 protein (SP1) in pancreatic human cancer cells and mice tumors. This study examines the ability of tolfenamic acid to reduce SP1 levels, and thereby decrease APP transcription and Aβ levels in rodent brains. Tolfenamic acid was administered by oral gavage to C57BL/6 mice at variable dosages and for different time periods. Results have shown that tolfenamic acid was able to down regulate brain protein levels of SP1, APP, and Aβ. These findings demonstrate that interference with upstream transcriptional pathways can lower pathogenic intermediates associated with AD, and thus tolfenamic acid represents a novel approach for the development of a therapeutic intervention for AD.
    Current Alzheimer research 05/2011; 8(4):385-92. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Metabolism of β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) is closely associated with the pathology and etiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Our previous studies on aging primates and rodents have revealed that early life lead exposure increases the expression of the β-amyloid precursor protein (AβPP), elevates Aβ levels, and promotes neurodegeneration in old age. These effects were attributed to de novo synthetic pathways; however, the impact on Aβ degradation was not explored. Neprilysin (NEP), a rate-limiting catabolic peptidase is involved in Aβ metabolism in vivo. In the present study we sought to investigate whether accumulation of Aβ induced by Pb exposure is partially due to its ability to subdue NEP expression and consequently NEP activity. SH-SY5Y cells were exposed to Pb concentrations of 0, 5, 10, 20, and 50 μM for 48 h and AβPP, NEP protein and mRNA levels were measured. Additionally, NEP enzymatic activity and Aβ levels were also assessed. Western blot and RT-PCR analysis indicated significant increases in the protein and mRNA expression of AβPP, which appeared to be concentration and time-dependent, while the protein and mRNA expression of NEP as well as NEP activity declined. These actions of Pb were specific and were not observed when substituted by another metal. These results suggest that Pb causes both the overexpression of AβPP and repression of NEP resulting in the buildup of Aβ.
    NeuroToxicology 02/2011; 32(3):300-6. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    Axel Schumacher, Syed Bihaqi, Nasser H. Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease, affecting about 20 million people worldwide.35 It is characterized by progressive loss of memory, declining cognitive function and, ultimately, leads to decreasing physical functions and death. The neuropathological hallmarks of AD are the development of senile plaques and the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, intracellular neuronal lesions deposited in the brain. The neurofibrillary tangles represent bundles of paired helical filaments, which mainly consist of the microtubule-associated protein tau in an abnormally phosphorylated form.2 The extracellular amyloid plaques mainly consist of the 42-residue long amyloid β-peptide which is proteolytically derived from the much larger amyloid precursor protein (APP).27 The generation and subsequent aggregation of amyloid beta (Aβ) seems to be at the origin of the disease and is believed to trigger a complex pathological cascade that ultimately causes neuronal dysfunction.
    01/2011: pages 175-186;
  • Nasser H. Zawia, Riyaz Basha
    11/2010: pages 143 - 162; , ISBN: 9780470917060
  • Nasser H. Zawia, Fernando Cardozo-Pelaez
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetics and oxidative stress are two cellular mechanisms that appear to be independent from each other and associated with distinct cellular processes. Epigenetics is associated with developmental regulation of gene expression, mainly through the process of methylation of genetic promoter regions. On the other hand, oxidative stress is a cellular process of disruption in the homeostasis between cellular antioxidant systems and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species leading to cell malfunction or death. The oxidative stress process is linked to a myriad of diseases and is a consequence after toxicologic challenges. In this chapter, we summarize results from our laboratories that identify developmental stage and toxicologic challenges that result in a novel mechanism in which toxicologic exposure during development alters the normal pattern in markers of oxidative stress and epigenetic regulation. The concordance of these two alterations results in pathologic changes similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, we postulate a novel mechanism in which epigenetics and oxidative stress are at play in disease, and the occurrence of one of these processes will alter the occurrence of the other. KeywordsEpigenetics-Cytosine methylation-8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine-DNA damage-DNA repair-Lead-Alzheimer’s disease
    12/2009: pages 439-453;
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    D K Lahiri, B Maloney, N H Zawia
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    ABSTRACT: Neurobiological disorders have diverse manifestations and symptomology. Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, manifest late in life and are characterized by, among other symptoms, progressive loss of synaptic markers. Developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum, appear in childhood. Neuropsychiatric and affective disorders, such as schizophrenia and major depressive disorder, respectively, have broad ranges of age of onset and symptoms. However, all share uncertain etiologies, with opaque relationships between genes and environment. We propose a 'Latent Early-life Associated Regulation' (LEARn) model, positing latent changes in expression of specific genes initially primed at the developmental stage of life. In this model, environmental agents epigenetically disturb gene regulation in a long-term manner, beginning at early developmental stages, but these perturbations might not have pathological results until significantly later in life. The LEARn model operates through the regulatory region (promoter) of the gene, specifically through changes in methylation and oxidation status within the promoter of specific genes. The LEARn model combines genetic and environmental risk factors in an epigenetic pathway to explain the etiology of the most common, that is, sporadic, forms of neurobiological disorders.
    Molecular psychiatry 11/2009; 14(11):992-1003. · 15.05 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
273.76 Total Impact Points


  • 2000–2013
    • University of Rhode Island
      • Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences
      Kingston, RI, United States
  • 2012
    • Ibb University
      Ibb, Ibb, Yemen
  • 2010
    • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
      • National Center for Toxicological Research
      Washington, D. C., DC, United States
  • 2007–2009
    • Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
      • Institute of Psychiatric Research
      Indianapolis, IN, United States
  • 2006
    • University of Montana
      • Center for Environmental Health Sciences
      Missoula, MT, United States
  • 1996–2003
    • Meharry Medical College
      • Department of Pharmacology
      Nashville, Tennessee, United States
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      North Carolina, United States
  • 2001
    • Savannah State University
      Savannah, Georgia, United States
  • 2000–2001
    • University of California, Irvine
      Irvine, California, United States
  • 1994
    • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
      Durham, North Carolina, United States