Epigenetic signaling in psychiatric disorders: Stress and depression

Rosemary C. Bagot, Benoit Labonté, Catherine J. Peña, Eric J. Nestler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Psychiatric disorders are complex multifactorial disorders involving chronic alterations in neural circuit structure and function. While genetic factors play a role in the etiology of disorders such as depression, addiction, and schizophrenia, relatively high rates of discordance among identical twins clearly point to the importance of additional factors. Environmental factors, such as stress, play a major role in the psychiatric disorders by inducing stable changes in gene expression, neural circuit function, and ultimately behavior. Insults at the developmental stage and in adulthood appear to induce distinct maladaptations. Increasing evidence indicates that these sustained abnormalities are maintained by epigenetic modifications in specific brain regions. Indeed, transcriptional dysregulation and associated aberrant epigenetic regulation is a unifying theme in psychiatric disorders. Aspects of depression can be modeled in animals by inducing disease-like states through environmental manipulations, and these studies can provide a more general understanding of epigenetic mechanisms in psychiatric disorders. Understanding how environmental factors recruit the epigenetic machinery in animal models is providing new insights into disease mechanisms in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-295
Number of pages15
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Acetylation
  • Animal model
  • Depression
  • Early life
  • Epigenetic
  • Histone
  • Methylation
  • Stress


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