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REVIEW: Epigenetic Regulation as a Basis for Long-Term Changes in the Nervous System: In Search of Specificity Mechanisms

A. A. Borodinova1,a* and P. M. Balaban1

1Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117485 Moscow, Russia

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received June 1, 2020; Revised July 16, 2020; Accepted July 29, 2020
Adaptive long-term changes in the functioning of nervous system (plasticity, memory) are not written in the genome, but are directly associated with the changes in expression of many genes comprising epigenetic regulation. Summarizing the known data regarding the role of epigenetics in regulation of plasticity and memory, we would like to highlight several key aspects. (i) Different chromatin remodeling complexes and DNA methyltransferases can be organized into high-order multiprotein repressor complexes that are cooperatively acting as the “molecular brake pads”, selectively restricting transcriptional activity of specific genes at rest. (ii) Relevant physiological stimuli induce a cascade of biochemical events in the activated neurons resulting in translocation of different signaling molecules (protein kinases, NO-containing complexes) to the nucleus. (iii) Stimulus-specific nitrosylation and phosphorylation of different epigenetic factors is linked to a decrease in their enzymatic activity or changes in intracellular localization that results in temporary destabilization of the repressor complexes. (iv) Removing “molecular brakes” opens a “critical time window” for global and local epigenetic changes, triggering specific transcriptional programs and modulation of synaptic connections efficiency. It can be assumed that the reversible post-translational histone modifications serve as the basis of plastic changes in the neural network. On the other hand, DNA methylation and methylation-dependent 3D chromatin organization can serve a stable molecular basis for long-term maintenance of plastic changes and memory.
KEY WORDS: memory, learning, epigenetics, gene expression, histone deacetylase, DNA methylation, nitric oxide

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297920090023