Histone deacetylases (HDACs) and brain function

Claude Henry Volmar, Claes Wahlestedt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Modulation of gene expression is a constant and necessary event for mammalian brain function. An important way of regulating gene expression is through the remodeling of chromatin, the complex of DNA, and histone proteins around which DNA wraps. The "histone code hypothesis" places histone post-translational modifications as a significant part of chromatin remodeling to regulate transcriptional activity. Acetylation of histones by histone acetyl transferases and deacetylation by histone deacetylases (HDACs) at lysine residues are the most studied histone post-translational modifications in cognition and neuropsychiatric diseases. Here, we review the literature regarding the role of HDACs in brain function. Among the roles of HDACs in the brain, studies show that they participate in glial lineage development, learning and memory, neuropsychiatric diseases, and even rare neurologic diseases. Most HDACs can be targeted with small molecules. However, additional brain-penetrant specific inhibitors with high central nervous system exposure are needed to determine the cause-and-effect relationship between individual HDACs and brain-associated diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2015


  • Brain function
  • Epigenetics
  • HAT
  • HDAC
  • Histone
  • Neuroepigenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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