Epigenetic mechanisms: a common theme in vertebrate and invertebrate memory formation

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 May;63(9):1009-16. doi: 10.1007/s00018-006-6026-6.


In this review we address the idea that conservation of epigenetic mechanisms for information storage represents a unifying model in biology, with epigenetic mechanisms being utilized for cellular memory at levels from behavioral memory to development to cellular differentiation. Epigenetic mechanisms typically involve alterations in chromatin structure, which in turn regulate gene expression. An emerging idea is that the regulation of chromatin structure through histone acetylation and DNA methylation may mediate long-lasting behavioral change in the context of learning and memory. We find this idea fascinating because similar mechanisms are used for triggering and storing long-term 'memory' at the cellular level, for example when cells differentiate. An additional intriguing aspect of the hypothesis of a role for epigenetic mechanisms in information storage is that lifelong behavioral memory storage may involve lasting changes in the physical, three-dimensional structure of DNA itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics*


  • Chromatin