Epigenetic Regulation of Circadian Clocks and Its Involvement in Drug Addiction

Genes (Basel). 2021 Aug 19;12(8):1263. doi: 10.3390/genes12081263.

Abstract

Based on studies describing an increased prevalence of addictive behaviours in several rare sleep disorders and shift workers, a relationship between circadian rhythms and addiction has been hinted for more than a decade. Although circadian rhythm alterations and molecular mechanisms associated with neuropsychiatric conditions are an area of active investigation, success is limited so far, and further investigations are required. Thus, even though compelling evidence connects the circadian clock to addictive behaviour and vice-versa, yet the functional mechanism behind this interaction remains largely unknown. At the molecular level, multiple mechanisms have been proposed to link the circadian timing system to addiction. The molecular mechanism of the circadian clock consists of a transcriptional/translational feedback system, with several regulatory loops, that are also intricately regulated at the epigenetic level. Interestingly, the epigenetic landscape shows profound changes in the addictive brain, with significant alterations in histone modification, DNA methylation, and small regulatory RNAs. The combination of these two observations raises the possibility that epigenetic regulation is a common plot linking the circadian clocks with addiction, though very little evidence has been reported to date. This review provides an elaborate overview of the circadian system and its involvement in addiction, and we hypothesise a possible connection at the epigenetic level that could further link them. Therefore, we think this review may further improve our understanding of the etiology or/and pathology of psychiatric disorders related to drug addiction.

Keywords: DNA methylation; clock gene; drug addiction; epigenetics; gene expression; histone deacetylase; histone modification; neurodevelopment; substance use disorders.

Publication types

  • Review