Histone methylation and aging: lessons learned from model systems

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Dec;1839(12):1454-62. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2014.05.008. Epub 2014 May 21.


Aging induces myriad cellular and, ultimately, physiological changes that cause a decline in an organism's functional capabilities. Although the aging process and the pathways that regulate it have been extensively studied, only in the last decade have we begun to appreciate that dynamic histone methylation may contribute to this process. In this review, we discuss recent work implicating histone methylation in aging. Loss of certain histone methyltransferases and demethylases changes lifespan in invertebrates, and alterations in histone methylation in aged organisms regulate lifespan and aging phenotypes, including oxidative stress-induced hormesis in yeast, insulin signaling in Caenorhabiditis elegans and mammals, and the senescence-associated secretory phenotype in mammals. In all cases where histone methylation has been shown to impact aging and aging phenotypes, it does so by regulating transcription, suggesting that this is a major mechanism of its action in this context. Histone methylation additionally regulates or is regulated by other cellular pathways that contribute to or combat aging. Given the numerous processes that regulate aging and histone methylation, and are in turn regulated by them, the role of histone methylation in aging is almost certainly underappreciated.

Keywords: Aging; Epigenetics; Histone methylation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Models, Biological
  • Progeria / genetics
  • Progeria / metabolism
  • Progeria / pathology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • Histones
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase