Toxicology letters

Effect of chronic heroin and cocaine administration on global DNA methylation in brain and liver.

PMID 23454526


Drug abuse is associated with epigenetic changes, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of chronic cocaine and heroin administration on global DNA methylation in brain and liver. Male, 8 week old, C57BL/6J mice received heroin in a chronic 'intermittent' escalating dose paradigm, or cocaine in a chronic escalating dose 'binge' paradigm, which mimic the human pattern of opioid or cocaine abuse respectively. Following sacrifice, livers and brains were removed and DNA was extracted from them. The extracted DNA was hydrolyzed and 2'-deoxycytidine and 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine were determined by HPLC-UV. The % 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine content of DNA was significantly higher in the brain compared to the liver. There were no differences between the control animals and the cocaine or heroin treated animals in neither of the tissues examined, which is surprising since cocaine administration induced gross morphological changes in the liver. Moreover, there was no difference in the % 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine content of DNA between the cocaine and the heroin treated animals. The global DNA methylation status in the brain and liver of mice chronically treated with cocaine or heroin remains unaffected, but this finding cannot exclude the existence of anatomical region or gene-specific methylation differences. This is the first time that global DNA methylation in the liver and whole brain has been studied following chronic cocaine or heroin treatment.