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Epigenetics of Multiple Sclerosis – March 2014

Epigenetics of Multiple Sclerosis: An Updated Review

NeuroMolecular Medicine March 2014
Cem İsmail Küçükali, Murat Kürtüncü, Arzu Çoban, Merve Çebi, Erdem Tüzün
1. Department of Neuroscience, Institute for Experimental Medicine (DETAE), Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey
2. Department of Neurology, Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey
drerdem at yahoo.com


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease characterized with autoimmune response against myelin proteins and progressive axonal loss. The heterogeneity of the clinical course and low concordance rates in monozygotic twins have indicated the involvement of complex heritable and environmental factors in MS pathogenesis. MS is more often transmitted to the next generation by mothers than fathers suggesting an epigenetic influence. One of the possible reasons of this parent-of-origin effect might be the human leukocyte antigen-DRB1*15 allele, which is the major risk factor for MS and regulated by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation and histone deacetylation. Moreover, major environmental risk factors for MS, vitamin D deficiency, smoking and Ebstein–Barr virus are all known to exert epigenetic changes.

In the last few decades, compelling evidence implicating the role of epigenetics in MS has accumulated. Increased or decreased acetylation, methylation and citrullination of genes regulating the expression of inflammation and myelination factors appear to be particularly involved in the epigenetics of MS. Although much less is known about epigenetic factors causing neurodegeneration, epigenetic mechanisms regulating axonal loss, apoptosis and mitochondrial dysfunction in MS are in the process of identification. Additionally, expression levels of several microRNAs (miRNAs) (e.g., miR-155 and miR-326) are increased in MS brains and potential mechanisms by which these factors might influence MS pathogenesis have been described. Certain miRNAs may also be potentially used as diagnostic biomarkers in MS. Several reagents, especially histone deacetylase inhibitors have been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. Ongoing efforts in this field are expected to result in characterization of epigenetic factors that can be used in prediction of treatment responsive MS patients, diagnostic screening panels and treatment methods with specific mechanism of action.

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