Behav Brain Res. 2016 Jan 1;296:286-9
Epigenetics has recently been linked to molecular adaptive responses evoked by physical exercise and stress. Herein we evaluated the effects of physical exercise on global DNA methylation and expression of the Dnmt1 gene in the rat brain and also verified its potential to modulate responses evoked by repeated restraint stress (RRS). Wistar rats were classified into the following experimental groups: (1) physically active (EX): animals submitted to swimming during postnatal days 53-78 (PND); (2) stress (ST): animals submitted to RRS during 75-79PND; (3) exercise-stress (EX-ST): animals submitted to swimming during 53-78PND and to RRS during 75-79PND, and (4) control (CTL): animals that were not submitted to intervention. Samples from the hippocampus, cortex and hypothalamus were obtained at 79PND. The global DNA methylation profile was assessed using an ELISA-based method and the expression of Dnmt1 was evaluated by real-time PCR. Significantly increased methylation was observed in the hypothalamus of animals from the EX group in comparison to CTL. Comparative analysis involving the EX-ST and ST groups revealed increased global DNA methylation in the hippocampus, cortex, and hypothalamus of EX-ST, indicating the potential of physical exercise in modulating the responses evoked by RRS. Furthermore, decreased expression of the Dnmt1 gene was observed in the hippocampus and hypothalamus of animals from the EX-ST group. In summary, our data indicate that physical exercise affects DNA methylation of the hypothalamus and might modulate epigenetic responses evoked by RRS in the hippocampus, cortex, and hypothalamus.