Epigenome-wide meta-analysis of PTSD symptom severity in three military cohorts implicates DNA methylation changes in genes involved in immune system and oxidative stress

Epigenetic factors modify the effects of environmental factors on biological outcomes. Identification of epigenetic changes that associate with PTSD is therefore a crucial step in deciphering mechanisms of risk and resilience. In this study, our goal is to identify epigenetic signatures associated with PTSD symptom severity (PTSS) and changes in PTSS over time, using whole blood DNA methylation (DNAm) data (MethylationEPIC BeadChip) of military personnel prior to and following combat deployment. A total of 429 subjects (858 samples across 2 time points) from three male military cohorts were included in the analyses.


We conducted two different meta-analyses to answer two different scientific questions: one to identify a DNAm profile of PTSS using a random effects model including both time points for each subject, and the other to identify a DNAm profile of change in PTSS conditioned on pre-deployment DNAm. Four CpGs near four genes (F2R, CNPY2, BAIAP2L1, and TBXAS1) and 88 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were associated with PTSS. Change in PTSS after deployment was associated with 15 DMRs, of those 2 DMRs near OTUD5 and ELF4 were also associated with PTSS. Notably, three PTSS-associated CpGs near F2R, BAIAP2L1 and TBXAS1 also showed nominal evidence of association with change in PTSS. This study, which identifies PTSD-associated changes in genes involved in oxidative stress and immune system, provides novel evidence that epigenetic differences are associated with PTSS.

Seyma Katrinli, Adam X Maihofer, Agaz H Wani, John R Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Ketema, Andrew Ratanatharathorn, Dewleen G Baker, Marco P Boks, Elbert Geuze, Ronald C Kessler, Victoria B Risbrough, Bart P F Rutten, Murray B Stein, Robert J Ursano, Eric Vermetten, Mark W Logue, Caroline M Nievergelt, Alicia K Smith, Monica Uddin | 2022
In: Molecular Psychiatry ; ISSN: | 27 | 3 | March | 1720-1728
Diseases, Epigenetics, Genetics, Military Personnel, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Research, Veterans
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