Epigenetic regulation plays an important role in controlling gene expression during complex processes, such as development of the human brain. Mutations in genes encoding chromatin modifying proteins and in the non-protein coding sequences of the genome can potentially alter transcription factor binding or chromatin accessibility. Such mutations can frequently cause neurodevelopmental disorders, therefore understanding how epigenetic regulation shapes brain development is of particular interest. While epigenetic regulation of neural development has been extensively studied in murine models, significant species-specific differences in both the genome sequence and in brain development necessitate human models. However, access to human fetal material is limited and these tissues cannot be grown or experimentally manipulated ex vivo. Therefore, models that recapitulate particular aspects of human fetal brain development, such as the in vitro differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), are instrumental for studying the epigenetic regulation of human neural development. Here, we examine recent studies that have defined changes in the epigenomic landscape during fetal brain development. We compare these studies with analogous data derived by in vitro differentiation of hPSCs into specific neuronal cell types or as three-dimensional cerebral organoids. Such comparisons can be informative regarding which aspects of fetal brain development are faithfully recapitulated by in vitro differentiation models and provide a foundation for using experimentally tractable in vitro models of human brain development to study neural gene regulation and the basis of its disruption to cause neurodevelopmental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105039
JournalNeurochemistry International
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Chromatin
  • Epigenetic regulation
  • Human brain development
  • Neuron
  • Organoid
  • Pluripotent stem cells


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