Co-housing reverses memory decline by epigenetic regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease

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Co-housing with a company exerts profound effects on memory decline in animal model of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recently, we found that APP/PS1 mice of 9-month-old improved their memories after co-housing with wide-type mice for 3 months by increasing hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression. However, the mechanism of how co-housing could induce BDNF expression remains elusive. Here we examined epigenetic changes in the mouse hippocampus that accompanied the co-housing-induced memory improvement. We found that the level of histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2), but not that of HDAC1, was significantly lower in the memory improved mice than in the control and memory un-improved APP/PS1 mice after co-housing. Knockdown of Hdac2 resulted in a higher freezing response after co-housing. Conversely, over-expression of HDAC2 blocked co-housing-induced memory improvement. The level of Bdnf exon IV mRNA increased significantly after knockdown of Hdac2. ChIP assay revealed a decreased occupancy of HDAC2 in the promoter region of Bdnf exon IV of memory improved mice but not memory un-improved and control APP/PS1 mice. Consistently, the acetylation of histone 3 on Lys 9 (H3K9) and histone 4 on Lys12 (H4K12) increased significantly in the promoter region of Bdnf exon IV. These results suggest HDAC2 expression is reduced after co-housing resulting in a decreased occupancy of HDAC2 and increased histone H3K9 and H4K12 acetylation in the promoter region of Bdnf exon IV, leading to increased BDNF expression in the hippocampus that improves memory.

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