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      Glucocorticoid receptor gene ( NR3C1) methylation following stressful events between birth and adolescence. The TRAILS study


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          Stress early in life is a known risk factor for the development of affective disorders later in life. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, may have an important role in mediating that risk. Recent epigenetic research reported on the long-term relationship between traumatic stress in childhood and DNA methylation in adulthood. In this study, we examined the impact of various types of stress (perinatal stress, stressful life events (SLEs) and traumatic youth experiences) on methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene ( NR3C1) in the blood of a population sample of 468 adolescents (50.4% female, mean age 16.1 years). Second, we determined whether stress at different ages was associated with higher NR3C1 methylation. NR3C1 methylation rates were higher after exposure to SLEs and after exposure to traumatic youth experiences. NR3C1 methylation in adolescence was not higher after exposure to perinatal stress. Experience of SLEs in adolescence was associated with a higher NR3C1 methylation, independently of childhood SLEs. We demonstrate that not only traumatic youth experiences but also (more common) SLEs are associated with higher NR3C1 methylation. In addition, our findings underline the relevance of adolescent stress for epigenetic changes in the NR3C1 gene.

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          Most cited references 36

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          Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior.

          Here we report that increased pup licking and grooming (LG) and arched-back nursing (ABN) by rat mothers altered the offspring epigenome at a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene promoter in the hippocampus. Offspring of mothers that showed high levels of LG and ABN were found to have differences in DNA methylation, as compared to offspring of 'low-LG-ABN' mothers. These differences emerged over the first week of life, were reversed with cross-fostering, persisted into adulthood and were associated with altered histone acetylation and transcription factor (NGFI-A) binding to the GR promoter. Central infusion of a histone deacetylase inhibitor removed the group differences in histone acetylation, DNA methylation, NGFI-A binding, GR expression and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses to stress, suggesting a causal relation among epigenomic state, GR expression and the maternal effect on stress responses in the offspring. Thus we show that an epigenomic state of a gene can be established through behavioral programming, and it is potentially reversible.
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            The link between childhood trauma and depression: insights from HPA axis studies in humans.

            Childhood trauma is a potent risk factor for developing depression in adulthood, particularly in response to additional stress. We here summarize results from a series of clinical studies suggesting that childhood trauma in humans is associated with sensitization of the neuroendocrine stress response, glucocorticoid resistance, increased central corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) activity, immune activation, and reduced hippocampal volume, closely paralleling several of the neuroendocrine features of depression. Neuroendocrine changes secondary to early-life stress likely reflect risk to develop depression in response to stress, potentially due to failure of a connected neural circuitry implicated in emotional, neuroendocrine and autonomic control to compensate in response to challenge. However, not all of depression is related to childhood trauma and our results suggest the existence of biologically distinguishable subtypes of depression as a function of childhood trauma that are also responsive to differential treatment. Other risk factors, such as female gender and genetic dispositions, interfere with components of the stress response and further increase vulnerability for depression. Similar associations apply to a spectrum of other psychiatric and medical disorders that frequently coincide with depression and are aggravated by stress. Taken together, this line of evidence demonstrates that psychoneuroendocrine research may ultimately promote optimized clinical care and help prevent the adverse outcomes of childhood trauma.
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              Prenatal exposure to maternal depression, neonatal methylation of human glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) and infant cortisol stress responses.

              In animal models, variations in early maternal care are associated with differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal(HPA) stress response in the offspring, mediated via changes in the epigenetic regulation of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene (Nr3c1) expression. To study this in humans, relationships between prenatal exposure to maternal mood and the methylation status of a CpG-rich region in the promoter and exon 1F of the human GR gene (NR3C1) in newborns and HPA stress reactivity at age three months were examined. Prenatal exposure to increased third trimester maternal depressed/anxious mood was associated with increased methylation of NR3C1 at a predicted NGFI-A binding site. Increased NR3C1 methylation at this site was also associated with increased salivary cortisol stress responses at 3 months, controlling for prenatal SRI exposure, postnatal age and pre and postnatal maternal mood. The methylation status of a CpG-rich region of the NR3C1 gene, including exon 1F, in genomic DNA from cord blood mononuclear cells was quantified by bisulfite pyrosequencing in infants of depressed mothers treated with a serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant (SRI) (n = 33), infants of depressed nontreated mothers (n = 13) and infants of non depressed/non treated mothers (n = 36). To study the functional implications of the newborn methylation status of NR3C1 in newborns, HPA function was assessed at three months using salivary cortisol obtained before and following a non noxious stressor and at a late afternoon basal time. Methylation status of the human NR3C1 gene in newborns is sensitive to prenatal maternal mood and may offer a potential epigenetic process that links antenatal maternal mood and altered HPA stress reactivity during infancy.

                Author and article information

                Transl Psychiatry
                Transl Psychiatry
                Translational Psychiatry
                Nature Publishing Group
                April 2014
                08 April 2014
                1 April 2014
                : 4
                : 4
                : e381
                [1 ]Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus Medical Center, Sophia Children's Hospital , Rotterdam, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion regulation, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen , Groningen, The Netherlands
                [3 ]Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen , Groningen, The Netherlands
                [4 ]Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families, The University of Vermont , Burlington, VT, USA
                [5 ]Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus Medical Center , Rotterdam, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                [* ]Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus Medical Center, Sophia Children's Hospital , PO Box 2060, 3000 CB Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: f.vanoort@ 123456erasmusmc.nl
                Copyright © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

                Original Article

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry


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