Methylation, memory and addiction

Epigenetics. 2011 Jun;6(6):671-4. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.6.15905. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


Dynamic chromatin remodeling is at the heart of most biological processes including gene transcription, DNA replication and repair, cell differentiation and apoptosis. Chromatin remodeling as a result of covalent histone modifications, including histone acetylation, methylation or SUMOylation, play important roles in these processes. Similarly, direct chemical modification of DNA, most notably DNA methylation, also plays a key role in controlling gene expression and basic aspects of cell biology. Memory, one of the most fundamental of all brain functions, is a complex process involving diverse cellular signaling cascades and coordinated regulation of entire networks of genes. Synaptic plasticity, which is defined as activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength between neurons, provides the cellular basis of memory. The role for covalent histone modifications in synaptic plasticity and in learning and memory has been now been firmly established. In contrast, much less had been known concerning DNA methylation in memory formation and storage. Emerging evidence now suggests that DNA methylation plays a central role in these processes, likely by directly influencing the expression of genes involved in synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Memory*
  • Neuronal Plasticity


  • Histones