The long lasting addiction-related abnormal memory is one of the most important foundations for relapse. DNA methylation may be a possible mechanism for persistence of such memory. Here we injected the DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) inhibitor, 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine (5-aza) into hippocampus CA1 area and prelimbic cortex during the stages of acquisition and expression of cocaine-induced place preference in C57BL/6 mice. Results showed that in CA1 DNA methylation inhibitors could restrain acquisition but had no impact on expression of the cocaine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP). On the contrary, in prelimbic cortex, 5-aza had no effect on acquisition but blocked expression. Our results indicated that DNA methylation in hippocampus is required for learning; while DNA methylation in prelimbic cortex is necessary for memory retrieval. The present finding is consistent with the role of the hippocampus as a structure contributing to cocaine-induced memory acquisition, and prelimbic cortex, a part of prefrontal cortex as an area responsible for cocaine-induced memory retrieval. In conclusion, DNA methylation does play an important role in drug-induced learning and memory although the detailed effect still calls for further research.
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