Promoter Activity-Based Case-Control Association Study on SLC6A4 Highlighting Hypermethylation and Altered Amygdala Volume in Male Patients With Schizophrenia.
ABSTRACT: Associations between altered DNA methylation of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT)-encoding gene SLC6A4 and early life adversity, mood and anxiety disorders, and amygdala reactivity have been reported. However, few studies have examined epigenetic alterations of SLC6A4 in schizophrenia (SZ). We examined CpG sites of SLC6A4, whose DNA methylation levels have been reported to be altered in bipolar disorder, using 3 independent cohorts of patients with SZ and age-matched controls. We found significant hypermethylation of a CpG site in SLC6A4 in male patients with SZ in all 3 cohorts. We showed that chronic administration of risperidone did not affect the DNA methylation status at this CpG site using common marmosets, and that in vitro DNA methylation at this CpG site diminished the promoter activity of SLC6A4. We then genotyped the 5-HTT-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) and investigated the relationship among 5-HTTLPR, DNA methylation, and amygdala volume using brain imaging data. We found that patients harboring low-activity 5-HTTLPR alleles showed hypermethylation and they showed a negative correlation between DNA methylation levels and left amygdala volumes. These results suggest that hypermethylation of the CpG site in SLC6A4 is involved in the pathophysiology of SZ, especially in male patients harboring low-activity 5-HTTLPR alleles.
Project description:A polymorphism in the promoter region of the human serotonin transporter (5-HTT)-coding SLC6A4 gene (5-HTTLPR) has been implicated in moderating susceptibility to stress-related psychopathology and to possess regulatory functions on human in vivo 5-HTT availability. However, data on a direct relation between 5-HTTLPR and in vivo 5-HTT availability have been inconsistent. Additional factors such as epigenetic modifications of 5-HTTLPR might contribute to this association. This is of particular interest in the context of obesity, as an association with 5-HTTLPR hypermethylation has previously been reported. Here, we tested the hypothesis that methylation rates of 14 cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) 5-HTTLPR loci, in vivo central 5-HTT availability as measured with [11C]DASB positron emission tomography (PET) and body mass index (BMI) are related in a group of 30 obese (age: 36±10 years, BMI>35?kg/m2) and 14 normal-weight controls (age 36±7 years, BMI<25?kg/m2). No significant association between 5-HTTLPR methylation and BMI overall was found. However, site-specific elevations in 5-HTTLPR methylation rates were significantly associated with lower 5-HTT availability in regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) specifically within the obese group when analyzed in isolation. This association was independent of functional 5-HTTLPR allelic variation. In addition, negative correlative data showed that CpG10-associated 5-HTT availability determines levels of reward sensitivity in obesity. Together, our findings suggest that epigenetic mechanisms rather than 5-HTTLPR alone influence in vivo 5-HTT availability, predominantly in regions having a critical role in reward processing, and this might have an impact on the progression of the obese phenotype.
Project description:Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe mental disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of mania and depression. Serotonin transporter (HTT) is a target of antidepressants and is one of the strongest candidate molecules of mood disorder, however, genetic study showed equivocal results. Here, we performed promoter-wide DNA methylation analysis of lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) derived from two pairs of monozygotic twins discordant for BD. To rule out the possible discordance of copy number variation (CNV) between twins, we performed CNV analysis and found the copy number profiles were nearly identical between the twin pairs except for immunoglobulin-related regions. Among the three genes we obtained as candidate regions showing distinct difference of DNA methylation between one of the two pairs, hypermethylation of SLC6A4, encoding HTT, in the bipolar twin was only confirmed by bisulfite sequencing. Then, promoter hypermethylation of SLC6A4 in LCLs of BD patients was confirmed in a case-control analysis. DNA methylation of SLC6A4 was significantly correlated with its mRNA expression level in individuals with the S/S genotype of HTTLPR, and mRNA expression level was lower in BD patients carrying the S/S genotype. Finally, DNA methylation of the same site was also higher in the postmortem brains of BD patients. This is the first study to report the role of epigenetic modification of SLC6A4 in BD using an unbiased approach, which provides an insight for its pathophysiology.
Project description:DNA methylation profiles of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) have been shown to alter SLC6A4 expression, drive antidepressant treatment response and modify brain functions. This study investigated whether methylation of an AluJb element in the SLC6A4 promotor was associated with major depressive disorder (MDD), amygdala reactivity to emotional faces, 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 polymorphism, and recent stress. MDD patients (n=122) and healthy controls (HC, n=176) underwent fMRI during an emotional face-matching task. Individual SLC6A4 AluJb methylation profiles were ascertained and associated with MDD, amygdala reactivity, 5-HTTLPR/rs25531, and stress. SLC6A4 AluJb methylation was significantly lower in MDD compared to HC and in stressed compared to less stressed participants. Lower AluJb methylation was particularly found in 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 risk allele carriers under stress and correlated with less depressive episodes. fMRI analysis revealed a significant interaction of AluJb methylation and diagnosis in the amygdala, with MDD patients showing lower AluJb methylation associated with decreased amygdala reactivity. While no joint effect of AluJb methylation and 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 existed, risk allele carriers showed significantly increased bilateral amygdala activation. These findings suggest a role of SLC6A4 AluJb methylation in MDD, amygdala reactivity, and stress reaction, partly interwoven with 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 effects. Patients with low methylation in conjunction with a shorter MDD history and decreased amygdala reactivity might feature a more stress-adaptive epigenetic process, maybe via theoretically possible endogenous antidepressant-like effects. In contrast, patients with higher methylation might possibly suffer from impaired epigenetic adaption to chronic stress. Further, the 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 association with amygdala activation was confirmed in our large sample.
Project description:Epigenetic mechanisms may moderate genetic and environmental risk (GxE) for mood disorders. We used an experimental rhesus macaque model of early life stress to test whether epigenetic regulation of serotonin transporter (5-HTT) may contribute to GxE interactions that influence behavior and emotion. We hypothesized that peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA methylation within an 800 bp cytosine-phosphate-guanosine (CpG) island that overlaps with the 5-HTT transcription initiation start site, a hypothesized model of the same genomic region in brain tissue, would mediate or moderate the effects of early life stress and a functional 5-HTT promoter polymorphism (rh5-HTTLPR) on two outcomes: PBMC 5-HTT expression and behavioral stress reactivity. Eighty-seven infant rhesus macaques (3-4 months of age) were either mother reared in large social groups (n = 70) or nursery reared (n = 17). During a maternal/social separation, infants' blood was sampled and behavioral stress reactivity recorded. PBMC DNA and RNA samples were used to determine rh5-HTTLPR genotype, 5-HTT mRNA expression using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and 5-HTT CpG methylation status using sodium bisulfite pyrosequencing. Consistent with human data, carriers of the low-expressing rh5-HTTLPR alleles exhibited higher mean 5-HTT CpG methylation, which was associated with lower PBMC 5-HTT expression. Higher 5-HTT CpG methylation, but not rh5-HTTLPR genotype, exacerbated the effects of early life stress on behavioral stress reactivity in infants. 5-HTT CpG methylation may be an important regulator of 5-HTT expression early in development and may contribute to the risk for mood disorders observed in 'high-risk'5-HTTLPR carriers.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The serotonin transporter (5-HTT) and the 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 polymorphisms in its gene (SLC6A4) have been associated with depression, increased stress-response, and brain structural alterations such as reduced hippocampal volumes. Recently, epigenetic processes including SLC6A4 promoter methylation were shown to be affected by stress, trauma, or maltreatment and are regarded to be involved in the etiology of affective disorders. However, neurobiological correlates of SLC6A4 promoter methylation have never been studied or compared to genotype effects by means of human neuroimaging hitherto METHODS:Healthy subjects were recruited in two independent samples (N?=?94, N?=?95) to obtain structural gray matter images processed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM8), focusing on hippocampal, amygdala, and anterior cingulate gyrus gray matter structure. SLC6A4 promoter methylation within an AluJb element and 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 genotypes were analyzed in view of a possible impact on local gray matter volume RESULTS:Strong associations of AluJb methylation and hippocampal gray matter volumes emerged within each sample separately, which in the combined sample withstood most conservative alpha-corrections for the entire brain. The amygdala, insula, and caudate nucleus showed similar associations. The 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 showed no main effect on gray matter, and the effect of methylation rates on hippocampal structure was comparable among the genotype groups CONCLUSIONS:Methylation within the AluJb appears to have strong effects on hippocampal gray matter volumes, indicating that epigenetic processes can alter brain structures crucially involved in stress-related disorders. Different ways of regulating SLC6A4 expression might involve exonization or transcription factor binding as potentially underlying mechanisms, which, however, is speculative and warrants further investigation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Disrupted serotonergic signaling is often a feature of depression and the role of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4), responsible for serotonin re-uptake, has received much attention in this regard. Most studies have focused on the polymorphic 5-HTTLPR upstream repeat, or DNA methylation at the promoter CpG island. Few studies have explored the influence of genetic variation across the gene on DNA methylation, and their combined association with depression risk. The aim of this study was to determine whether genetic variation in the SLC6A4 gene influences promoter DNA methylation, and whether these are associated with depression status. METHOD:The ESPRIT study involves a community-based population of older individuals (>?65 years of age). Major depressive disorder (MDD) was diagnosed according to DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria, and severe depressive symptoms assessed by the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale. Sequenom MassARRAY was used to measure SLC6A4 methylation status (n?=?302). RESULTS:Nominally significant associations were observed between SLC6A4 genetic variants (5-HTTLPR, rs140700, rs4251417, rs6354, rs25528, rs25531) and DNA methylation at several CpG sites. In multivariate regression, DNA methylation was associated with depression status, but only in the presence of specific genotypes. In individuals homozygous for the short 5-HTTLPR and 5-HTTLPR/r25531 alleles, lower methylation at two CpGs was associated with depression (??=?-?0.44 to ??=?-?0.31; p?=?0.001 to p?=?0.038). CONCLUSION:We present evidence for genotype-dependent associations between SLC6A4 methylation and depression. Genetic variants may also play a role in influencing promoter methylation levels and its association with depression.
Project description:The serotonin transporter gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been implicated in moderating vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology upon exposure to environmental adversity. A recent meta-analysis suggests a potential biological pathway conveying genotype-dependent stress sensitivity by demonstrating a small, but significant association of 5-HTTLPR and cortisol stress reactivity. An arguably more potent approach to detect larger effects when investigating the 5-HTTLPR stress sensitivity hypothesis is to account for both genetic and epigenetic variation in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4). Here, we applied this approach in an experimental setting. Two hundred healthy adults were exposed to a laboratory stressor (Trier Social Stress Test) and cortisol response patterns were assessed as a function of 5-HTTLPR and DNA methylation profiles in SLC6A4. Specifically, we analyzed 83 CpG sites within a 799-bp promoter-associated CpG island of SLC6A4 using a highly sensitive bisulfite pyrosequencing method. Our results suggest that SLC6A4 methylation levels significantly moderate the association of 5-HTTLPR and cortisol stress reactivity. For individuals displaying low levels of SLC6A4 methylation, the S allele relates to increased cortisol stress reactivity in a dose-dependent fashion accounting for 7-9% of the variance in the endocrine stress response. By contrast, no such effect occurred under conditions of high SLC6A4 methylation, indicating that epigenetic changes may compensate for genotype-dependent differences in stress sensitivity. Studying epigenetic markers may advance gene-environment interaction research on 5-HTTLPR as they possibly capture the net effects of environmental influences relevant for stress-related phenotypes under serotonergic control.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Research has demonstrated an association between exposure to early life stress and an increased risk of psychiatric disorders in later life, in particular depression. However, the mechanism through which early life stress contributes to disease development remains unclear. Previous studies have reported an association between early life stress and altered methylation of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4), a key candidate gene for several psychiatric disorders. These differences in methylation are influenced by sex and genetic variation in the SLC6A4-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). Furthermore, one study indicated that stress during pregnancy may induce methylation changes in SLC6A4 in the newborn. The present study is the first to investigate whether early life stress during pregnancy impacts on SLC6A4 methylation in newborns, taking into account the influence of genetic variation and sex. METHODS:Cord blood was obtained from newborns with high (n?=?45) or low (n?=?45) early life stress, defined as maternal stress during pregnancy. The effect on methylation of early life stress, 5-HTTLPR genotype, and sex was assessed at four cytosin-phosphate-guanine dinucleotide (CpG) sites in the promoter associated CpG island north shore (CpG 1 to 4). The epigenetic analyses focused on these CpG sites, since research has shown that CpG island shore methylation has functional consequences. RESULTS:Significant sex-specific methylation was observed, with females displaying higher methylation levels than males (p?<?0.001). Importantly, this effect was influenced by neither early life stress nor genotype. CONCLUSIONS:The present data suggest that sex-specific methylation of SLC6A4 is present at birth, and is independent of early life stress and 5-HTTLPR genotype. This may contribute to the sex-specific prevalence of depression.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The neurochemical serotonin (5-HT) is an important signaling molecule in the gastrointestinal motor and sensory functions. A key regulator of 5-HT levels is the transmembrane serotonin transporter (5-HTT; SLC6A4) that governs the reuptake of 5-HT. Recent studies have indicated 5-HTT expression may be regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. We investigated DNA methylation status of SLC6A4 gene in the gastric mucosa from functional dyspepsia (FD) because of their potential role in dyspeptic symptoms. METHODS: Endoscopic gastric biopsies were obtained from 78 subjects with no upper abdominal symptoms and 79 patients with FD. Bisulfite Pyrosequencing was carried out to determine the methylation status of promoter CpG islands (PCGIs), promoter non-CpG islands (PNCGIs) and gene body non-CpG islands (NPNCGIs) in the SLC6A4 gene. Gene expression was examined by real-time PCR. RESULTS: In overall, methylation level of PCGIs was significantly lower in FD compared to control subjects (p?=?0.04). On the other hand, methylation level of NPNCGIs was significantly higher in FD compared to control subjects (p?=?0.03). Lower methylation level in PNCGIs was highlighted in the patients with PDS (p?=?0.01), while higher methylation level in NPNCGIs was more prominent in the patients with EPS (p?=?0.017). Methylation levels of PCGIs and PNCGIs were inversely correlated, while methylation levels of NPNCGIs was positively correlated with SLC6A4 mRNA levels in FD patients. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that change in DNA methylation pattern of SLC6A4 in the gastric mucosa may have a role for developing FD. A role of epigenetics for developing FD needs to be further evaluated.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Shift-working nurses are exposed to a stressful work environment, which puts them at an increased risk for burnout and depression. We explored the effect of environmental stress on serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) promoter methylation among nurses from high and low work stress environments.<h4>Methodology</h4>Using bisulfite sequencing, we investigated the methylation status of five CpG residues of a CpG-rich region in the promoter of SLC6A4 by comparing female shift working nurses from a high work stress environment (n = 24) to low work stress environment (n = 25). We also analyzed the association of 5-HTTLPR polymorphism at 5' end of SLC6A4. Work stress was assessed by the Karasek's Model and possible signs of burnout or depression were measured by the Maslach Burnout Index General Survey and Beck Depression Index. Methylation levels were assessed by bisulfite sequencing of DNA extracted from peripheral blood leucocytes. Restriction enzyme treatment followed by standard PCR was used to identify 5-HTTLPR genotypes.<h4>Principal findings</h4>We found that nurses in the high stress environment had significantly lower promoter methylation levels at all five CpG residues compared to nurses in the low stress environment (p<0.01). There was no significant interaction of 5-HTTLPR genotype and work stress with methylation (p = 0.58). In unadjusted (bivariate) analysis, burnout was not significantly associated to methylation levels. However, when mutually adjusted for both, burnout and work stress were significant contributors (p = 0.038 and p<0.0001 respectively) to methylation levels.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our findings show that environmental stress is concurrent with decreased methylation of the SLC6A4 promoter. This may lead to increased transcriptional activity of the gene, increased reuptake of serotonin from synaptic clefts, and termination of the activity of serotonin. This could present a possible coping mechanism for environmental stress in humans that could eventually increase risk for disturbed functional capability and experience of depressed mood in long-term stress.