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Epigenomics. 2011 Apr;3(2):157-81. doi: 10.2217/epi.11.6.

Epigenetic mechanisms in memory and synaptic function.

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Department of Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Evelyn F McKnight Brain Institute, 1007 Shelby Building, 1825 University Boulevard Birmingham, AL 35294-2182, USA.


Although the term 'epigenetics' was coined nearly seventy years ago, its critical function in memory processing by the adult CNS has only recently been appreciated. The hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms regulate memory and behavior was motivated by the need for stable molecular processes that evade turnover of the neuronal proteome. In this article, we discuss evidence that supports a role for neural epigenetic modifications in the formation, consolidation and storage of memory. In addition, we will review the evidence that epigenetic mechanisms regulate synaptic plasticity, a cellular correlate of memory. We will also examine how the concerted action of multiple epigenetic mechanisms with varying spatiotemporal profiles influence selective gene expression in response to behavioral experience. Finally, we will suggest key areas for future research that will help elucidate the complex, vital and still mysterious, role of epigenetic mechanisms in neural function and behavior.

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