Paternal cocaine taking elicits epigenetic remodeling and memory deficits in male progeny

Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Nov;22(11):1641-1650. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.8. Epub 2017 Feb 21.


Paternal environmental perturbations including exposure to drugs of abuse can produce profound effects on the physiology and behavior of offspring via epigenetic modifications. Here we show that adult drug-naive male offspring of cocaine-exposed sires have memory formation deficits and associated reductions in NMDA receptor-mediated hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Reduced levels of the endogenous NMDA receptor co-agonist d-serine were accompanied by increased expression of the d-serine degrading enzyme d-amino acid oxidase (Dao1) in the hippocampus of cocaine-sired male progeny. Increased Dao1 transcription was associated with enrichment of permissive epigenetic marks on histone proteins in the hippocampus of male cocaine-sired progeny, some of which were enhanced near the Dao1 locus. Finally, hippocampal administration of d-serine reversed both the memory formation and synaptic plasticity deficits. Collectively, these results demonstrate that paternal cocaine exposure produces epigenetic remodeling in the hippocampus leading to NMDA receptor-dependent memory formation and synaptic plasticity impairments only in male progeny, which has significant implications for the male descendants of chronic cocaine users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Epigenomics / methods
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Paternal Inheritance / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Sex Factors


  • Histones
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Cocaine