Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry

(Formerly Current Medicinal Chemistry - Central Nervous System Agents)


Choline Nutrition Programs Brain Development Via DNA and Histone Methylation

Author(s): Jan Krzysztof Blusztajn, Tiffany J. Mellott.


Choline is an essential nutrient for humans. Metabolically choline is used for the synthesis of membrane phospholipids (e.g. phosphatidylcholine), as a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and, following oxidation to betaine, choline functions as a methyl group donor in a pathway that produces S-adenosylmethionine. As a methyl donor choline influences DNA and histone methylation – two central epigenomic processes that regulate gene expression. Because the fetus and neonate have high demands for choline, its dietary intake during pregnancy and lactation is particularly important for normal development of the offspring. Studies in rodents have shown that high choline intake during gestation improves cognitive function in adulthood and prevents memory decline associated with old age. These behavioral changes are accompanied by electrophysiological, neuroanatomical, and neurochemical changes and by altered patterns of expression of multiple cortical and hippocampal genes including those encoding key proteins that contribute to the biochemical mechanisms of learning and memory. These actions of choline are observed long after the exposure to the nutrient ended (months) and correlate with fetal hepatic and cerebral cortical choline-evoked changes in global- and genespecific DNA cytosine methylation and with dramatic changes of the methylation pattern of lysine residues 4, 9 and 27 of histone H3. Moreover, gestational choline modulates the expression of DNA (Dnmt1, Dnmt3a) and histone (G9a/Ehmt2/Kmt1c, Suv39h1/Kmt1a) methyltransferases. In addition to the central role of DNA and histone methylation in brain development, these processes are highly dynamic in adult brain, modulate the expression of genes critical for synaptic plasticity, and are involved in mechanisms of learning and memory. A recent study documented that in a cohort of normal elderly people, verbal and visual memory function correlated positively with the amount of dietary choline consumption. It will be important to determine if these actions of choline on human cognition are mediated by epigenomic mechanisms or by its influence on acetylcholine or phospholipid synthesis.

Keywords: Brain, choline, DNA, histone, memory, methylation, nutrition, pregnancy

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Article Details

Year: 2012
Page: [82 - 94]
Pages: 13
DOI: 10.2174/187152412800792706
Price: $58