Epigenetic Mechanisms in Memory and Cognitive Decline Associated with Aging and Alzheimer's Disease
Epigenetic mechanisms, which include DNA methylation, a variety of post-translational modifications of histone proteins (acetylation, phosphorylation, methylation, ubiquitination, sumoylation, serotonylation, dopaminylation), chromatin remodeling enzymes, and long non-coding RNAs, are robust regulators of activity-dependent changes in gene transcription. In the brain, many of these epigenetic modifications have been widely implicated in synaptic plasticity and memory formation. Dysregulation of epigenetic mechanisms has been reported in the aged brain and is associated with or contributes to memory decline across the lifespan. Furthermore, alterations in the epigenome have been reported in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Here, we review the diverse types of epigenetic modifications and their role in activity- and learning-dependent synaptic plasticity. We then discuss how these mechanisms become dysregulated across the lifespan and contribute to memory loss with age and in Alzheimer’s disease. Collectively, the evidence reviewed here strongly supports a role for diverse epigenetic mechanisms in memory formation, aging, and neurodegeneration in the brain.