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Epigenetic mechanisms in migraine: a promising avenue?

Else Eising1, Nicole A Datson1, Arn MJM van den Maagdenberg12* and Michel D Ferrari2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Centre, Einthovenweg 20, Leiden, 2333 ZC, The Netherlands

2 Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Albinusdreef 2, Leiden, 2333 ZA, The Netherlands

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-26

Published: 4 February 2013

Abstract

Migraine is a disabling common brain disorder typically characterized by attacks of severe headache and associated with autonomic and neurological symptoms. Its etiology is far from resolved. This review will focus on evidence that epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in disease etiology. Epigenetics comprise both DNA methylation and post-translational modifications of the tails of histone proteins, affecting chromatin structure and gene expression. Besides playing a role in establishing cellular and developmental stage-specific regulation of gene expression, epigenetic processes are also important for programming lasting cellular responses to environmental signals. Epigenetic mechanisms may explain how non-genetic endogenous and exogenous factors such as female sex hormones, stress hormones and inflammation trigger may modulate attack frequency. Developing drugs that specifically target epigenetic mechanisms may open up exciting new avenues for the prophylactic treatment of migraine.

Keywords:
DNA methylation; epigenetics; GWAS; histone modifications; inflammation; migraine; stress; valproate