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Cell Tissue Bank. 2012 Dec;13(4):597-606. doi: 10.1007/s10561-011-9278-9. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Histone tail acetylation in brain occurs in an unpredictable fashion after death.

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  • 1Institute of Neuropathology, [Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute-] IDIBELL, Bellvitge University Hospital-ICS, c/Feixa Llarga s/n, 08908 L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain.


Histone acetylation plays a role in the regulation of gene transcription. Yet it is not known whether post-mortem brain tissue is suitable for the analysis of histone acetylation. To examine this question, nucleosomes were isolated from frontal cortex of nine subjects which were obtained at short times after death and immediately frozen at -80°C or maintained at room temperature from 3 h up to 50 h after death and then frozen at -80°C to mimic variable post-mortem delay in tissue processing as currently occurs in normal practice. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were performed for two lysine residues, H3K9ac and H3K27ac. Four gene loci were amplified by SyBrGreen PCR: Adenosine A(2A) receptor, UCHL1, α-synuclein and β-globin. Results showed variability in the histone acetylation level along the post-mortem times and an increase in the acetylation level at an unpredictable time from one case to another and from one gene to another within the first 24 h of post-mortem delay. Similar results were found with three rat brains used to exclude the effects of agonal state and to normalize the start-point as real time zero. Therefore, the present observations show that human post-mortem brain is probably not suitable for comparative studies of histone acetylation.

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