The process of neurogenesis includes neural stem cell proliferation, fate specification, young neuron migration, neuronal maturation, and functional integration into existing circuits. Although neurogenesis occurs largely during embryonic development, low levels but functionally important neurogenesis persists in restricted regions of the postnatal brain, including the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus and the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles. This review will cover both embryonic and adult neurogenesis with an emphasis on the latter. Of the many endogenous mediators of postnatal neurogenesis, epigenetic pathways, such as mediators of DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling systems, and non-coding RNA modulators, appear to play an integral role. Mounting evidence shows that such epigenetic factors form regulatory networks, which govern each step of postnatal neurogenesis. In this review, we explore the emerging roles of epigenetic mechanisms particularly microRNAs, element-1 silencing transcription factor/neuron-restrictive silencing factor (REST/NRSF), polycomb proteins, and methyl-CpG bindings proteins, in regulating the entire process of postnatal and adult neurogenesis. We further summarize recent data regarding how the crosstalk among these different epigenetic proteins forms the critical regulatory network that regulates neuronal development. We finally discuss how crosstalk between these pathways may serve to translate environmental cues into control of the neurogenic process.
Keywords: DNA methylation; chromatin; epigenetic regulation; microRNA; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; non-coding RNA.