Modification of the histone proteins associated with DNA is an important process in the epigenetic regulation of DNA structure and function. There are several known modifications to histones, including methylation, acetylation, and phosphorylation, and a range of factors influence each of these. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) remove the acetyl group from lysine residues within a range of proteins, including transcription factors and histones. Whilst this means that their influence on cellular processes is more complex and far-reaching than histone modifications alone, their predominant function appears to relate to histones; through deacetylation of lysine residues they can influence expression of genes encoded by DNA linked to the histone molecule. HDAC inhibitors in turn regulate the activity of HDACs, and have been widely used as therapeutics in psychiatry and neurology, in which a number of adverse outcomes are associated with aberrant HDAC function. More recently, dietary HDAC inhibitors have been shown to have a regulatory effect similar to that of pharmacological HDAC inhibitors without the possible side-effects. Here, we discuss a number of dietary HDAC inhibitors, and how they may have therapeutic potential in the context of a whole food.
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