Valproate induces DNA demethylation in nuclear extracts from adult mouse brain

Epigenetics. Nov-Dec 2010;5(8):730-5. doi: 10.4161/epi.5.8.13053. Epub 2010 Nov 1.


The methylation and demethylation of CpG dinucleotides that are embedded in promoters play an important role in controlling gene transcription. In the mammalian brain, CpG promoter methylation is a postreplicative process mediated by a group of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), such as DNMT1 and DNMT3a, DNMT3b. Several studies demonstrate that in addition to DNMTs, promoter methylation in the brain can be regulated by a putative DNA demethylation process that specifically removes the methyl group from the carbon-5 of cytosines. To test the existence of a possible active DNA demethylation activity in postmitotic neuronal or glial cells, we incubated an SssI methylated mouse reelin (Reln) promoter fragment (-720 to +140) with nuclear extracts from the mouse frontal cortex (FC). We observed the presence of DNA demethylation activity, which was increased in FC nuclear extracts from mice treated with valproate (VPA, 2.2 mmol/kg, twice a day for 3 days). VPA not only reduces anxiety, and cognitive deficits, and other symptoms in bipolar disorder (BP) disorder and schizophrenia (SZ) patients but also upregulates Reln and glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (Gad67) mRNA/protein expression by reducing the methylation of their promoters. We believe that the identification of an enzyme in brain that facilitates DNA-demethylation and an understanding of how drugs induce DNA demethylation are crucial to progress in a new line of pharmacological interventions to treat neurodevelopment, neuropsychiatric, and neurodegenerative diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / biosynthesis
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • DNA Modification Methylases / genetics
  • DNA Modification Methylases / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / biosynthesis
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Valproic Acid / adverse effects
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Valproic Acid
  • DNA Modification Methylases
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • reelin protein