Regulation of histone acetylation in the hippocampus of chronically stressed rats: a potential role of sirtuins

Neuroscience. 2011 Feb 3:174:104-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.10.077. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


The hippocampus is a brain region that is particularly susceptible to structural and functional changes in response to chronic stress. Recent literature has focused on changes in gene transcription mediated by post-translational modifications of histones in response to stressful stimuli. Chronic variable stress (CVS) is a rodent model that mimics certain symptoms of depression in humans. Given that stress exhibits distinct effects on the cells of the sub-regions of the hippocampus, we investigated changes in histone acetylation in the CA1, CA3, and dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus in response to CVS. Western blotting revealed a significant decrease in acetylation of histone 4 (H4) at Lys12 in CA3 and DG of CVS animals compared to control animals. Furthermore, phospho-acetyl H3 (Lys9/Ser10) was also decreased in the CA3 and DG regions of the hippocampus of CVS animals. In addition, since histone deacetylases (HDACs) contribute to the acetylation state of histones, we investigated the effects of two HDAC inhibitors, sodium butyrate, a class I and II global HDAC inhibitor, and sirtinol, a class III sirtuin inhibitor, on acetylation of histone 3 (H3) and H4. Application of HDAC inhibitors to hippocampus slices from control and CVS animals revealed increased histone acetylation in CVS animals, suggesting that levels of histone deacetylation by HDACs were higher in the CVS animals compared to control animals. Interestingly, histone acetylation in response to sirtinol was selectively increased in the slices from the CVS animals, with very little effect of sirtuin inhibitors in slices from control animals. In addition, sirtuin activity was increased specifically in CA3 and DG of CVS animals. These results suggest a complex and regionally-specific pattern of changes in histone acetylation within the hippocampus which may contribute to stress-induced pathology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Histone Deacetylases / physiology
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sirtuins / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Histones
  • Sirtuins
  • Histone Deacetylases