Histone deacetylases and mood disorders: epigenetic programming in gene-environment interactions

CNS Neurosci Ther. 2011 Dec;17(6):699-704. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00203.x. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Epigenetics involves molecular mechanisms related to gene expression independent of DNA sequence, mostly mediated by modification of chromatin histones. It has recently been suggested that these transcriptional changes may be implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. In addition, histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors have been shown to control epigenetic programming associated with the regulation of cognition and behavior, and may reverse dysfunctional epigenetic regulation associated with early life events in preclinical models. In this context, the active and continuous adaptation of chromatin, and the access of gene promoters to transcription factor mechanisms may represent a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of mood disorders such as bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Notably, the standard mood stabilizer valproate (VPA) has been shown to modulate the epigenome by inhibiting HDACs. However, several potential limitations are associated with this class of agents, including lack of selectivity for specific HDAC isoforms as well as risk of potentially serious side effects. Further studies regarding the potential role of chromatin remodeling in the mechanism of action of antidepressants and mood stabilizers are necessary to clarify the potential role of this class of agents as therapeutics for mood disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Histone Deacetylases / genetics*
  • Histone Deacetylases / physiology*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Histones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / enzymology
  • Mood Disorders / genetics*
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology
  • Valproic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Valproic Acid
  • Histone Deacetylases