Gene expression and regulation are important modifiers of behavior. Epigenetic mechanisms regulate gene expression via chemical protein modifications or through methylation of genes themselves. In this review, Dias and colleagues outline epigenetic mechanisms by which gene expression is regulated in animals and humans. Using fear learning as a framework, they delineate how such mechanisms underlie learning and stress responsiveness. They also discuss how epigenetic mechanisms might be involved in transgenerational inheritance of behavioral traits that are being increasingly reported. For example, epigenetic marks in gametes may allow signals to be passed to the next generation. Noncoding RNA provides a mechanism by which signals may be transmitted across genomes.
Dias BG, Maddox SA, Klengel T and Ressler KJ: Epigenetic mechanisms underlying learning and the inheritance of learned behaviors. Trends in Neurosciences [Epub ahead of print, Dec. 2014; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2014.12.003 ].