An epigenetic mechanism links socioeconomic status to changes in depression-related brain function in high-risk adolescents.
ABSTRACT: Identifying biological mechanisms through which the experience of adversity emerges as individual risk for mental illness is an important step toward developing strategies for personalized treatment and, ultimately, prevention. Preclinical studies have identified epigenetic modification of gene expression as one such mechanism. Recent clinical studies have suggested that epigenetic modification, particularly methylation of gene regulatory regions, also acts to shape human brain function associated with risk for mental illness. However, it is not yet clear whether differential gene methylation as a function of adversity contributes to the emergence of individual risk for mental illness. Using prospective longitudinal epigenetic, neuroimaging and behavioral data from 132 adolescents, we demonstrate that changes in gene methylation associated with lower socioeconomic status (SES) predict changes in risk-related brain function. Specifically, we find that lower SES during adolescence is associated with an increase in methylation of the proximal promoter of the serotonin transporter gene, which predicts greater increases in threat-related amygdala reactivity. We subsequently demonstrate that greater increases in amygdala reactivity moderate the association between a positive family history for depression and the later manifestation of depressive symptoms. These initial results suggest a specific biological mechanism through which adversity contributes to altered brain function, which in turn moderates the emergence of general liability as individual risk for mental illness. If replicated, this prospective pathway may represent a novel target biomarker for intervention and prevention among high-risk individuals.
Project description:Variations in serotoninergic signaling have been related to behavioral outcomes. Alterations in the genome, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, are affected by serotonin neurotransmission. The amygdala is an important brain region involved in emotional responses and impulsivity, which receives serotoninergic input. In addition, studies suggest that the serotonin transporter gene network may interact with the environment and influence the risk for psychiatric disorders. We propose to investigate whether/how interactions between the exposure to early life adversity and serotonin transporter gene network in the amygdala associate with behavioral disorders. We constructed a co-expression-based polygenic risk score (ePRS) reflecting variations in the function of the serotonin transporter gene network in the amygdala and investigated its interaction with postnatal adversity on attention problems in two independent cohorts from Canada and Singapore. We also described how interactions between ePRS-5-HTT and postnatal adversity exposure predict brain gray matter density and variation in DNA methylation across the genome. We observed that the expression-based polygenic risk score, reflecting the function of the amygdala 5-HTT gene network, interacts with postnatal adversity, to predict attention and hyperactivity problems across both cohorts. Also, both postnatal adversity score and amygdala ePRS-5-HTT score, as well as their interaction, were observed to be associated with variation in DNA methylation across the genome. Variations in gray matter density in brain regions linked to attentional processes were also correlated to our ePRS score. These results confirm that the amygdala 5-HTT gene network is strongly associated with ADHD-related behaviors, brain cortical density, and epigenetic changes in the context of adversity in young children.
Project description:This study evaluated the hypothesis that prenatal maternal socioeconomic status (SES) adversity is associated with DNA methylation in the placenta. SES adversity was defined by the presence of, as well as a summative count of, four factors: less than college education, single marital status, food and nutritional service assistance, and public health insurance. Epigenome-wide DNA methylation was assessed using the Illumina EPIC array in 426 placentas from a sample of infants born < 28 weeks of gestation from the Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborn cohort. Associations between SES adversity and DNA methylation were assessed with robust linear regressions adjusted for covariates and controlled the false discovery rate at < 10%. We also examined whether such associations were sex specific. Indicators of SES adversity were associated with differential methylation at 33 CpG sites. Of the 33 identified CpG sites, 19 (57.6%) displayed increased methylation, and 14 (42.4%) displayed decreased methylation in association with at least one of the SES adversity factors. Sex differences were observed in DNA methylation associated with summative SES score; in which placentas derived from female pregnancies showed more robust differential CpG methylation than placentas from male pregnancies. Maternal SES adversity was associated with differential methylation of genes with key role in gene transcription and placental function, potentially altering immunity and stress response. Further investigation is needed to evaluate the role of epigenetic differences in mediating the association between maternal socioeconomic status during pregnancy and later life health outcomes in children.
Project description:Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with earlier onset of age-related chronic conditions and reduced life-expectancy, but the underlying biomolecular mechanisms remain unclear. Evidence of DNA-methylation differences by SES suggests a possible association of SES with epigenetic age acceleration (AA). We investigated the association of SES with AA in more than 5,000 individuals belonging to three independent prospective cohorts from Italy, Australia, and Ireland. Low SES was associated with greater AA (??=?0.99 years; 95% CI 0.39,1.59; p?=?0.002; comparing extreme categories). The results were consistent across different SES indicators. The associations were only partially modulated by the unhealthy lifestyle habits of individuals with lower SES. Individuals who experienced life-course SES improvement had intermediate AA compared to extreme SES categories, suggesting reversibility of the effect and supporting the relative importance of the early childhood social environment. Socioeconomic adversity is associated with accelerated epigenetic aging, implicating biomolecular mechanisms that may link SES to age-related diseases and longevity.
Project description:Child maltreatment not only leads to epigenetic changes, but also increases the risk of related behavioral deficits and mental disorders. These issues presumably are most closely associated with epigenetic changes in the brain, but epigenetic changes in peripheral tissues like blood are often examined instead, due to their accessibility. As such, the reliability of using the peripheral epigenome as a proxy for that of the brain is imperative. Previously, our lab has found aberrant methylation at the <i>Brain-derived neurotrophic factor</i> (<i>Bdnf</i>) gene in the prefrontal cortex of rats following aversive caregiving. The current study examined whether aversive caregiving alters <i>Bdnf</i> DNA methylation in the blood compared to the prefrontal cortex. It was revealed that DNA methylation associated with adversity increased in both tissues, but this methylation was not correlated between tissues. These findings indicate that group trends in <i>Bdnf</i> methylation between blood and the brain are comparable, but variation exists among individual subjects.
Project description:Life history theory argues that exposure to early life adversity (ELA) accelerates development, although existing evidence for this varies. We present a meta-analysis and systematic review testing the hypothesis that ELA involving threat (e.g., violence exposure) will be associated with accelerated biological aging across multiple metrics, whereas exposure to deprivation (e.g., neglect, institutional rearing) and low-socioeconomic status (SES) will not. We meta-analyze 54 studies (n = 116,010) examining associations of ELA with pubertal timing and cellular aging (telomere length and DNA methylation age), systematically review 25 studies (n = 3,253) examining ELA and neural markers of accelerated development (cortical thickness and amygdala-prefrontal cortex functional connectivity) and evaluate whether associations of ELA with biological aging vary according to the nature of adversity experienced. ELA overall was associated with accelerated pubertal timing (d = -0.10) and cellular aging (d = -0.21), but these associations varied by adversity type. Moderator analysis revealed that ELA characterized by threat was associated with accelerated pubertal development (d = -0.26) and accelerated cellular aging (d = -0.43), but deprivation and SES were unrelated to accelerated development. Systematic review revealed associations between ELA and accelerated cortical thinning, with threat-related ELA consistently associated with thinning in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and deprivation and SES associated with thinning in frontoparietal, default, and visual networks. There was no consistent association of ELA with amygdala-PFC connectivity. These findings suggest specificity in the types of early environmental experiences associated with accelerated biological aging and highlight the importance of evaluating how accelerated aging contributes to health disparities and whether this process can be mitigated through early intervention. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
Project description:<h4>Objectives</h4>Exposure to adversity has been linked to accelerated biological aging, which in turn has been shown to predict numerous physical and mental health problems. In recent years, measures of DNA methylation-based epigenetic age--known as "epigenetic clocks"--have been used to estimate accelerated epigenetic aging. Although a small number of studies have found an effect of adversity exposure on epigenetic age in children, none have investigated if there are "sensitive periods" when adversity is most impactful.<h4>Methods</h4>Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC; n?=?973), we tested the prospective association between repeated measures of childhood exposure to seven types of adversity on epigenetic age assessed at age 7.5 using the Horvath and Hannum epigenetic clocks. With a Least Angle Regression variable selection procedure, we evaluated potential sensitive period effects.<h4>Results</h4>We found that exposure to abuse, financial hardship, or neighborhood disadvantage during sensitive periods in early and middle childhood best explained variability in the deviation of Hannum-based epigenetic age from chronological age, even after considering the role of adversity accumulation and recency. Secondary sex-stratified analyses identified particularly strong sensitive period effects. These effects were undetected in analyses comparing children "exposed" versus "unexposed" to adversity. We did not identify any associations between adversity and epigenetic age using the Horvath epigenetic clock.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our results suggest that adversity may alter methylation processes in ways that either directly or indirectly perturb normal cellular aging and that these effects may be heightened during specific life stages.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIM: Recent studies in patients with anorexia nervosa suggest that oxytocin may be involved in the pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa. We examined whether there was evidence of variation in methylation status of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene in patients with anorexia nervosa that might account for these findings. METHODS: We analyzed the methylation status of the CpG sites in a region from the exon 1 to the MT2 regions of the OXTR gene in buccal cells from 15 patients and 36 healthy women using bisulfite sequencing. We further examined whether methylation status was associated with markers of illness severity or form. RESULTS: We identified six CpG sites with significant differences in average methylation levels between the patient and control groups. Among the six differentially methylated CpG sites, five showed higher than average methylation levels in patients than those in the control group (64.9-88.8% vs. 6.6-45.0%). The methylation levels of these five CpG sites were negatively associated with body mass index (BMI). BMI, eating disorders psychopathology, and anxiety were identified in a regression analysis as factors affecting the methylation levels of these CpG sites with more variation accounted for by BMI. CONCLUSIONS: Epigenetic misregulation of the OXTR gene may be implicated in anorexia nervosa, which may either be a mechanism linking environmental adversity to risk or may be a secondary consequence of the illness.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Trait anger, or the dispositional tendency to experience a wide range of situations as annoying or frustrating, is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes. The experience of adversity during childhood is one risk factor for the later emergence of high trait anger. This association has been hypothesized to reflect alterations in neural circuits supporting bottom-up threat processing and top-down executive control. METHODS:Here, using functional magnetic resonance imaging and self-report questionnaire data from 220 volunteers, we examined how individual differences in top-down prefrontal executive control and bottom-up amygdala threat activity modulate the association between childhood adversity and trait anger during young adulthood. RESULTS:We report that the association between childhood adversity and trait anger is attenuated specifically in young adults who have both relatively low threat-related amygdala activity and high executive control-related dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity. CONCLUSIONS:These brain activity patterns suggest that simultaneous consideration of their underlying cognitive processes-namely, threat processing and executive control-may be useful in strategies designed to mitigate the negative mental health consequences of childhood adversity.
Project description:The early-life social environment can induce stable changes that influence neurodevelopment and mental health. Research focused on early-life adversity revealed that early-life experiences have a persistent impact on gene expression and behavior through epigenetic mechanisms. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is sensitive to changes in the early-life environment that associate with DNA methylation of a neuron-specific exon 17 promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) (Nr3c1). Since initial findings were published in 2004, numerous reports have investigated GR gene methylation in relationship to early-life experience, parental stress, and psychopathology. We conducted a systematic review of this growing literature, which identified 40 articles (13 animal and 27 human studies) published since 2004. The majority of these examined the GR exon variant 1F in humans or the GR17 in rats, and 89% of human studies and 70% of animal studies of early-life adversity reported increased methylation at this exon variant. All the studies investigating exon 1F/17 methylation in conditions of parental stress (one animal study and seven human studies) also reported increased methylation. Studies examining psychosocial stress and psychopathology had less consistent results, with 67% of animal studies reporting increased exon 17 methylation and 17% of human studies reporting increased exon 1F methylation. We found great consistency among studies investigating early-life adversity and the effect of parental stress, even if the precise phenotype and measures of social environment adversity varied among studies. These results are encouraging and warrant further investigation to better understand correlates and characteristics of these associations.
Project description:Exposure to adverse rearing environments including institutional deprivation and severe childhood abuse is associated with an increased risk for mental and physical health problems across the lifespan. Although the mechanisms mediating these effects are not known, recent work in rodent models suggests that epigenetic processes may be involved. We studied the impact of severe early-life adversity on epigenetic variation in a sample of adolescents adopted from the severely depriving orphanages of the Romanian communist era in the 1980s. We quantified buccal cell DNA methylation at ~400?000 sites across the genome in Romanian adoptees exposed to either extended (6-43 months; n=16) or limited duration (<6 months; n=17) of severe early-life deprivation, in addition to a matched sample of UK adoptees (n=16) not exposed to severe deprivation. Although no probe-wise differences remained significant after controlling for the number of probes tested, we identified an exposure-associated differentially methylated region (DMR) spanning nine sequential CpG sites in the promoter-regulatory region of the cytochrome P450 2E1 gene (CYP2E1) on chromosome 10 (corrected P=2.98 × 10(-5)). Elevated DNA methylation across this region was also associated with deprivation-related clinical markers of impaired social cognition. Our data suggest that environmental insults of sufficient biological impact during early development are associated with long-lasting epigenetic changes, potentially reflecting a biological mechanism linking the effects of early-life adversity to cognitive and neurobiological phenotypes.