Previous studies demonstrated that maternal cocaine administration caused a significant decrease in protein kinase C epsilon (PRKCE) abundance in the left ventricle and an increase in susceptibility of the heart to ischemic injury in adult male offspring. The present study tested the hypothesis that epigenetic modification has a key role in cocaine-mediated programming of cardiac Prkce gene repression. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were administered saline or cocaine (30 mg/kg/day i.p.) from Days 15 to 21 of gestational age, and hearts of 3-mo-old adult offspring were studied. Cocaine exposure significantly decreased Prkce mRNA levels in the left ventricle of male but not female offspring. CpG dinucleotides identified in Bhlhb2, Pparg, E2f, and Egr1 binding sites at the Prkce gene promoter were densely methylated in males and females and were unaffected by cocaine exposure. In contrast, methylation of CpGs in the two Sp1 binding sites (−346 and −268) was low and was significantly increased by cocaine exposure in male offspring. In females, methylation of the Sp1 binding site at −268 but not −346 was increased. Reporter gene assays showed that both Sp1 binding sites had a strong stimulatory role in Prkce gene activity. Methylation of the Sp1 binding sites significantly decreased SP1 binding to the Prkce promoter. Cocaine exposure did not affect nuclear SP1 protein levels but decreased the SP1 binding affinity to its binding site at −268. The results demonstrate an epigenetic mechanism of DNA methylation in programming of cardiac Prkce gene repression, linking fetal cocaine exposure and pathophysiological consequences in the heart of adult male offspring in a gender-dependent manner.
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Vol. 80 • No. 3