Epigenetic mechanisms in drug addiction

Trends Mol Med. 2008 Aug;14(8):341-50. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2008.06.004. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


Changes in gene expression in brain reward regions are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis and persistence of drug addiction. Recent studies have begun to focus on the molecular mechanisms by which drugs of abuse and related environmental stimuli, such as drug-associated cues or stress, converge on the genome to alter specific gene programs. Increasing evidence suggests that these stable gene expression changes in neurons are mediated in part by epigenetic mechanisms that alter chromatin structure on specific gene promoters. This review discusses recent findings from behavioral, molecular and bioinformatic approaches being used to understand the complex epigenetic regulation of gene expression by drugs of abuse. This novel mechanistic insight might open new avenues for improved treatments of drug addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics
  • Brain / physiology
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Reward
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • Transcription Factors