DNA methylation and histone acetylation work in concert to regulate memory formation and synaptic plasticity

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 May;89(4):599-603. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2007.07.016. Epub 2007 Sep 18.


A clear understanding is developing concerning the importance of epigenetic-related molecular mechanisms in transcription-dependent long-term memory formation. Chromatin modification, in particular histone acetylation, is associated with transcriptional activation, and acetylation of histone 3 (H3) occurs in Area CA1 of the hippocampus following contextual fear conditioning training. Conversely, DNA methylation is associated with transcriptional repression, but is also dynamically regulated in Area CA1 following training. We recently reported that inhibition of the enzyme responsible for DNA methylation, DNA methyltransferase (DNMT), in the adult rat hippocampus blocks behavioral memory formation. Here, we report that DNMT inhibition also blocks the concomitant memory-associated H3 acetylation, without affecting phosphorylation of its upstream regulator, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Interestingly, the DNMT inhibitor-induced deficit in memory consolidation, along with deficits in long-term potentiation, can be rescued by pharmacologically increasing levels of histone acetylation prior to DNMT inhibition. These observations suggest that DNMT activity is not only necessary for memory and plasticity, but that DNA methylation may work in concert with histone modifications to regulate plasticity and memory formation in the adult rat hippocampus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation* / drug effects
  • Decitabine
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Fear / physiology
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats


  • Chromatin
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Decitabine
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylases
  • Azacitidine