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Psychiatry Investig. 2010 Dec;7(4):251-6. doi: 10.4306/pi.2010.7.4.251. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

Epigenetic regulation of BDNF gene in response to stress.

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Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, Division of Frontier Medical Science, Programs for Biomedical Research, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan.


Neuronal plasticity induced by changes in synaptic morphology and function is well known to play a pivotal role in leaning and memory as well as adaptation to stress. It is suggested that these plastic changes are due to orchestration of alterations in gene expression in the brain. Recent advances in molecular biology have provided evidence that epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation and histone modification, are crucial to gene transcription in the mammalian brain. Our research group has recently investigated the involvement of histone actylation at the promoter of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene in stress-induced reduction in BDNF, as well as in fear conditioning-induced enhancement of BDNF, in the rat hippocampus. The results of the stress study demonstrated that single-immobilization stress significantly reduced the levels of total, exon I, and exon IV BDNF mRNA, and also significantly reduced acetylation levels of histone H3, but not H4, at the promoter of exons I, IV, and VI. The results of the fear conditioning study showed that footshock stress significantly increased the levels of total, exon I, and exon IV BDNF mRNA, with significantly increased acetylation levels of both histone H3 and H4, at the promoter of exons I and IV, followed by enhanced freezing to fear-context exposure. These findings suggest that changes in BDNF transcription in the rat hippocampus in response to stressful stimuli are, at least in part, regulated by histone acetylation status.


BDNF; Epigenetics; Fear conditioning; Hippocampus; Stress

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