Neuroscience. 2013 Sep 21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.09.018. [Epub ahead of print]

Visualizing epigenetics: current advances and advantages in HDAC PET imaging techniques

Wang C, Schroeder FA, Hooker JM.


Abnormal gene regulation as a consequence of flawed epigenetic mechanisms may be central to the initiation and persistence of many human diseases. However, the association of epigenetic dysfunction with disease and the development of therapeutic agents for treatment are slow. Developing new methodologies used to visualize chromatin modifying enzymes and their function in the human brain would be valuable for diagnosis of brain disorders and drug discovery. We provide an overview of current invasive and noninvasive techniques for measuring expression and functions of chromatin modifying enzymes in the brain, emphasizing tools applicable to histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes as a leading example. The majority of current techniques are invasive and difficult to translate to what is happening within a human brain in vivo. However, recent progress in molecular imaging provides new, noninvasive ways to visualize epigenetics in human brain. Neuroimaging tool development presents a unique set of challenges in order to identify and validate CNS radiotracers for HDACs and other histone modifying enzymes. We summarize advances in the effort to image HDACs and HDAC inhibitory effects in the brain using PET and highlight generalizable techniques that can be adapted to investigate other specific components of epigenetic machinery. Translational tools like neuroimaging by PET and MRI provide the best way to link our current understanding of epigenetic changes with in vivo function in normal and diseased brain. These tools will be a critical addition to ex vivo methods to evaluate - and intervene - in CNS dysfunction.

PMID: 24051365