4.3
Impact Factor

Review ARTICLE

Front. Cell. Neurosci., 19 April 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2012.00018

Epigenetic effects of stress and corticosteroids in the brain

  • Laboratories of Neuroendocrinology and Neurobiology and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA

Stress is a common life event with potentially long lasting effects on health and behavior. Stress, and the corticosteroid hormones that mediate many of its effects, are well known for their ability to alter brain function and plasticity. While genetic susceptibility may influence the impact of stress on the brain, it does not provide us with a complete understanding of the capacity of stress to produce long lasting perturbations on the brain and behavior. The growing science of epigenetics, however, shows great promise of deepening our understanding of the persistent impacts of stress and corticosteroids on health and disease. Epigenetics, broadly defined, refers to influences on phenotype operating above the level of the genetic code itself. At the molecular level, epigenetic events belong to three major classes: DNA methylation, covalent histone modification and non-coding RNA. This review will examine the bi-directional interactions between stress and corticosteroids and epigenetic mechanisms in the brain and how the novel insights, gleaned from recent research in neuro-epigenetics, change our understanding of mammalian brain function and human disease states.

Keywords: epigenetics, stress, corticosteroids, glucocorticoid receptor, brain development

Citation: Hunter RG (2012) Epigenetic effects of stress and corticosteroids in the brain. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 6:18. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2012.00018

Received: 22 February 2012; Paper pending published: 18 March 2012;
Accepted: 02 April 2012; Published online: 19 April 2012.

Edited by:

Nicola Maggio, The Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Israel

Reviewed by:

Menahem Segal, Weizman Institute for Science, Israel
Nicola Maggio, The Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Israel

Copyright: © 2012 Hunter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Richard G. Hunter, Laboratories of Neuroendocrinology and Neurobiology and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave., New York, NY 10065, USA. e-mail: rhunter@rockefeller.edu