Drugging the methylome: DNA methylation and memory

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. May-Jun 2016;51(3):185-94. doi: 10.3109/10409238.2016.1150958. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Over the past decade, since epigenetic mechanisms were first implicated in memory formation and synaptic plasticity, dynamic DNA methylation reactions have been identified as integral to long-term memory formation, maintenance, and recall. This review incorporates various new findings that DNA methylation mechanisms are important regulators of non-Hebbian plasticity mechanisms, suggesting that these epigenetic mechanisms are a fundamental link between synaptic plasticity and metaplasticity. Because the field of neuroepigenetics is so young and the biochemical tools necessary to probe gene-specific questions are just now being developed and used, this review also speculates about the direction and potential of therapeutics that target epigenetic mechanisms in the central nervous system and the unique pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties that epigenetic therapies may possess. Mapping the dynamics of the epigenome in response to experiential learning, even a single epigenetic mark in isolation, remains a significant technical and bioinformatic hurdle facing the field, but will be necessary to identify changes to the methylome that govern memory-associated gene expression and effectively drug the epigenome.

Keywords: Angelman Syndrome; DNA methylation; DNMT; Pitt–Hopkins Syndrome; TET Oxidase; cognitive disorders; cytosine methylation; demethylation; epigenetics; learning; memory; neuroepigenetics; neuropharmacology; pharmacokinetics; psychopharmacology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation* / drug effects
  • Drug Discovery
  • Epigenesis, Genetic* / drug effects
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Memory* / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects