[dropcap]T[/dropcap]raumatic experience can induce lasting changes to abused children’s gene regulation that can last through adulthood, putting them at high risk of anxiety and mood disorders. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry report that genetic variants of the FKBP5 gene, an important regulator of the stress hormone system, can influence epigenetic alterations in this gene induced by early trauma.
The team found that in individuals with a certain allele of FKBP5, trauma causes long-term changes in DNA methylation. This demethylation was linked to increased stress-dependent gene transcription followed by a long-term dysregulation of the stress hormone system and a global effect on the function of immune cells and brain areas associated with stress regulation. As a result, those affected find themselves less able to cope with stressful situations throughout their lives, frequently leading to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorders in adulthood.
Research group leader Elisabeth Binder of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry examined the DNA of almost 2,000 Afro-Americans who had been repeatedly and severely traumatized as adults or in childhood. One-third of trauma victims had become ill and were now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder rose with increasing severity of abuse only in the carriers of a specific genetic variant in the FKBP5 gene. The <a class=”StrictlyAutoTagAnchor” title=”View all articles about scientists here” href=”http://www.etupdates.com/tag/scientists”>scientists h