Epigenetic mechanisms in experience-driven memory formation and behavior

Academic Article


  • Epigenetic mechanisms have long been associated with the regulation of gene-expression changes accompanying normal neuronal development and cellular differentiation; however, until recently these mechanisms were believed to be statically quiet in the adult brain. Behavioral neuroscientists have now begun to investigate these epigenetic mechanisms as potential regulators of gene-transcription changes in the CNS subserving synaptic plasticity and long-term memory (LTM) formation. Experimental evidence from learning and memory animal models has demonstrated that active chromatin remodeling occurs in terminally differentiated postmitotic neurons, suggesting that these molecular processes are indeed intimately involved in several stages of LTM formation, including consolidation, reconsolidation and extinction. Such chromatin modifications include the phosphorylation, acetylation and methylation of histone proteins and the methylation of associated DNA to subsequently affect transcriptional gene readout triggered by learning. The present article examines how such learning-induced epigenetic changes contribute to LTM formation and influence behavior. In particular, this article is a survey of the specific epigenetic mechanisms that have been demonstrated to regulate gene expression for both transcription factors and growth factors in the CNS, which are critical for LTM formation and storage, as well as how aberrant epigenetic processing can contribute to psychological states such as schizophrenia and drug addiction. Together, the findings highlighted in this article support a novel role for epigenetic mechanisms in the adult CNS serving as potential key molecular regulators of gene-transcription changes necessary for LTM formation and adult behavior. © 2011 Future Medicine Ltd.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Epigenomics  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 23928820
  • Author List

  • Puckett RE; Lubin FD
  • Start Page

  • 649
  • End Page

  • 664
  • Volume

  • 3
  • Issue

  • 5