Epigenetic mechanisms refer to the complex and interrelated molecular processes that dynamically modulate gene expression and function within every cell in the body. These regulatory systems represent the long-sought-after molecular interfaces that mediate gene x environment interactions. Changes in the epigenome throughout life are responsible not only for controlling normal development, adult homeostasis, and aging but also for mediating responses to injury. Emerging evidence implicates a spectrum of epigenetic processes in the pathophysiology of stroke. In this review, we describe conventional epigenetic mechanisms (including DNA methylation, histone code modifications, nucleosome remodeling, and higher-order chromatin formation) and highlight the emerging roles each of these processes play in the pathobiology of stroke. We suggest that understanding these mechanisms may be important for discovering more sensitive and specific biomarkers for risk, onset, and progression of stroke. In addition, we highlight epigenetic approaches for stroke therapy, including the inhibition of DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase enzyme activities. These therapeutic approaches are still in their infancy, but preliminary results suggest that contemporary agents targeting these pathways can regulate the deployment of stress responses that modulate neural cell viability and promote brain repair and functional reorganization. Indeed, these agents even appear to orchestrate sophisticated cognitive functions, including learning and memory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Neurology