Environmental and hormonal regulation of epigenetic enzymes in the hypothalamus

T. J. Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Neuroendocrine structures integrate a vast range of external cues and internal signals that, in turn, result in adaptive physiological responses. Emerging data indicate that light, social cues, stress and energy balance stimulate relatively short- as well as long-term genomic modifications in discrete neuroendocrine structures, which are mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. Moreover, environmentally-induced fluctuations in the synthesis of local hypothalamic and circulating hormones provide an internal signal that contributes to the extensive neuroendocrine genomic plasticity. This review examines the impact of environmental stimuli and endogenous hormonal signals on the regulation of epigenetic enzymes in key neuroendocrine structures. The data discussed are predominantly derived from studies in the neuroendocrine control of seasonal reproduction and the impact of social stress in rodent models. The perspective presented considers the role of estrogen and glucocorticoids as the primary catalysts for inducing epigenetic modifications (e.g., DNA methylation) in specific neuroendocrine structures. Estrogen and glucocorticoid actions suggest: 1) a preferential action for specific epigenetic enzymes and 2) nucleus- and cell-specific modifications. Untangling the complex web of hormonal regulation of methylation and acetylation will enhance our understanding of short- and long-term changes in epigenetic enzymes that generate adaptive and pathological neuroendocrine responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number5
Early online date5 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

This review is based in part on the 2016 British Society for Neuroendocrinology Mick Harbuz Lecture presented by TJS at the annual meeting in Glasgow, UK. Many past and current colleagues have provided valuable advice and helpful discussions, including Scott MacDougall-Shackleton, Gregory Ball, Brian Prendergast, Gerald Lincoln, Perry Barrett and Fran Ebling. Perry Barrett and Brian Prendergast are thanked for their comments on a previous version of the manuscript, as are the three reviewers for their constructive input. Ms Pat Bain in the Rowett Institute is also thanked for the illustrations used in Figure 1, as well as in the Supporting information (Figure S1).


  • acetylation
  • hormone
  • methylation
  • photoperiod
  • stress


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