The role of histone acetylation in memory formation and cognitive impairments

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Jan;38(1):62-76. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.86. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


Long-term memory formation requires transcription and protein synthesis. Over the past few decades, a great amount of knowledge has been gained regarding the molecular players that regulate the transcriptional program linked to memory consolidation. Epigenetic mechanisms have been shown to be essential for the regulation of neuronal gene expression, and histone acetylation has been one of the most studied and best characterized. In this review, we summarize the lines of evidence that have shown the relevance of histone acetylation in memory in both physiological and pathological conditions. Great advances have been made in identifying the writers and erasers of histone acetylation marks during learning. However, the identities of the upstream regulators and downstream targets that mediate the effect of changes in histone acetylation during memory consolidation remain restricted to a handful of molecules. We outline a general model by which corepressors and coactivators regulate histone acetylation during memory storage and discuss how the recent advances in high-throughput sequencing have the potential to radically change our understanding of how epigenetic control operates in the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Cognition Disorders / genetics
  • Cognition Disorders / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology


  • Histones