OBJECTIVE: Epigenetic changes are stable and long-lasting chromatin modifications that regulate genomewide and local gene activity. The addition of two methyl groups to the 9th lysine of histone 3 (H3K9me2) by histone methyltransferases (HMT) leads to a restrictive chromatin state, and thus reduced levels of gene transcription. Given the numerous reports of transcriptional down-regulation of candidate genes in schizophrenia, we tested the hypothesis that this illness can be characterized by a restrictive epigenome.
A large, and still rapidly expanding literature on epigenetic regulation in the nervous system has provided fundamental insights into the dynamic regulation of DNA methylation and post-translational histone modifications in the context of neuronal plasticity in health and disease. Remarkably, however, very little is known about the potential role of chromatin-bound RNAs, including many long non-coding transcripts and various types of small RNAs.
Psychotropic agents are notorious for their ability to increase fat mass in psychiatric patients. The two determinants of fat mass are the production of newly differentiated adipocytes (adipogenesis), and the volume of lipid accumulation. Epigenetic programs have a prominent role in cell fate commitments and differentiation required for adipogenesis. In parallel, epigenetic effects on energy metabolism are well supported by several genetic models.
Huntington's disease is a late-onset, autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive and psychiatric symptomatology. The earliest stage of Huntington's disease is marked by alterations in gene expression, which partially results from dysregulated epigenetic modifications.
Stress response is considered to have adaptive value for organisms faced with stressful condition. Chronic stress however adversely affects the physiology and may lead to neuropsychiatric disorders. Repeated stressful events in animal models have been shown to cause long-lasting changes in neural circuitries at molecular, cellular, and physiological level, leading to disorders of mood as well as cognition.
When compared to women, men have a higher incidence of schizophrenia, with increases in negative and cognitive symptoms, and an overall poorer disease course. Schizophrenia is conceptualized as a disorder of aberrant gene transcription and regulation. Thus, epigenetics, the study of environmentally induced changes in gene regulation, could advance our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of schizophrenia. Peripheral histone methyltransferase (HMT) mRNA levels have been previously shown to be significantly increased in patients with schizophrenia and correlate with symptomology.