Methylation and acetylation in nervous system development and neurodegenerative disorders

Mark P. Mattson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


The cytoarchitecture and cellular signaling mechanisms of the nervous system are complex, and this complexity is reflected at the molecular level with more genes being expressed in the nervous system than in any other tissue. Gene expression and protein function in neural cells can be regulated by methylation and acetylation. Studies of mice deficient in enzymes that control DNA methylation and of animals with a dietary deficiency of folate have established critical roles for methylation in development of the nervous system. Various neuronal proteins including histones and tubulin are regulated by acetylation which appears to serve important functions in the development, stability and plasticity of neuronal networks. Some inherited neurological disorders have recently been linked to mutations in genes that regulate DNA methylation, and alterations in DNA and protein methylation and/or acetylation have been documented in studies of age-related neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD). Manipulations of methylation and acetylation can affect the vulnerability of neurons to degeneration and apoptosis in experimental models of neurodegenerative disorders, suggesting a contribution to altered methylation and acetylation to the disease processes. Interestingly, dietary factors that influence DNA methylation may affect the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, for example, individuals with low dietary folate intake are at increased risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-342
Number of pages14
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Apoptosis
  • Oxidative stress
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Biochemistry


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