The Epigenetics of Epilepsy and Its Progression

Neuroscientist. 2018 Apr;24(2):186-200. doi: 10.1177/1073858417705840. Epub 2017 May 4.


Epilepsy is a common and devastating neurological disorder characterized by recurrent and unprovoked spontaneous seizures. One leading hypothesis for the development and progression of epilepsy is that large-scale changes in gene transcription and protein expression contribute to aberrant network restructuring and hyperexcitability, resulting in the genesis of repeated seizures. Current research shows that epigenetic mechanisms, including posttranslational alterations to the proteins around which DNA is coiled, chemical modifications to DNA, and the activity of various noncoding RNA molecules exert important influences on these gene networks in experimental epilepsy. Key findings from animal models have been replicated in humans using brain tissue obtained from living patients at the time of neurosurgical resection for pharmacoresistant epilepsy. These findings have spurred efforts to target epigenetic processes to disrupt or modify epilepsy in experimental models with varying degrees of success. In this review, we will (1) summarize the epigenetic mechanisms implicated in epileptogenesis and epilepsy, (2) explore the influence of metabolic factors on epigenetic mechanisms, and (3) assess the potential of using epigenetic markers to support diagnosis and prognosis. Translation of these findings may guide the development of molecular biomarkers and novel therapeutics for prevention or modification of epileptic disorders.

Keywords: DNA methylation; anticonvulsant drug; epigenetics; hippocampus; histones; lncRNA; metabolism; microRNA; temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / genetics*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism*
  • Epilepsy / therapy
  • Humans