Epigenetics of traumatic stress : The association of NR3C1 methylation and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom changes in response to narrative exposure therapy

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2023
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Wilker, Sarah
Vukojevic, Vanja
Inerle, Stefan
Pauly, Markus
Papassotiropoulos, Andreas
de Quervain, Dominique
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Epigenetic processes allow plasticity in gene regulation in response to significant environmental events. Accumulating evidence suggests that effective psychotherapy is accompanied by epigenetic changes, rendering DNA methylation a potential biomarker of therapy success. Due to the central role of glucocorticoid dynamics in stress regulation and the alteration of aversive memories, glucocorticoid receptors are likely involved in the molecular processes that are required to successfully treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to investigate the relationship between methylation at the glucocorticoid receptor gene ( NR3C1 ) and PTSD treatment success of evidence-based psychotherapy. A sample of N  = 153 conflict survivors from Northern Uganda (98 females and 55 males) with PTSD were treated with Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET). Diagnostic interviews and saliva sampling took place at pretreatment and 4 and 10 months after treatment completion. We investigated potential associations between PTSD symptom development and methylation changes at 38 CpG sites spanning NR3C1 over the three times of measurement using the repeated measures correlation. After accounting for multiple comparisons, DNA methylation at CpG site cg25535999 remained negatively associated with PTSD symptoms. These results were followed up by mixed models as well as structural equation modelling. These analyses revealed that treatment responders had a significant cg25535999 methylation increase after treatment with NET. Furthermore, lower methylation at cg25535999 pretreatment predicted a higher symptom improvement. Our results suggest different epigenetic profile dynamics at NR3C1 cg25535999 in therapy responders compared to non-responders and underscore the central role of glucocorticoid signaling in trauma-focused therapy.

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ISO 690WILKER, Sarah, Vanja VUKOJEVIC, Anna SCHNEIDER, Anett PFEIFFER, Stefan INERLE, Markus PAULY, Thomas ELBERT, Andreas PAPASSOTIROPOULOS, Dominique DE QUERVAIN, Iris-Tatjana KOLASSA, 2023. Epigenetics of traumatic stress : The association of NR3C1 methylation and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom changes in response to narrative exposure therapy. In: Translational Psychiatry. Springer. 2023, 13(1), 14. eISSN 2158-3188. Available under: doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02316-6
BibTex
@article{Wilker2023-01-19Epige-67607,
  year={2023},
  doi={10.1038/s41398-023-02316-6},
  title={Epigenetics of traumatic stress : The association of NR3C1 methylation and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom changes in response to narrative exposure therapy},
  number={1},
  volume={13},
  journal={Translational Psychiatry},
  author={Wilker, Sarah and Vukojevic, Vanja and Schneider, Anna and Pfeiffer, Anett and Inerle, Stefan and Pauly, Markus and Elbert, Thomas and Papassotiropoulos, Andreas and de Quervain, Dominique and Kolassa, Iris-Tatjana},
  note={German Research Foundation (DFG grant KO3895-4) Article Number: 14}
}
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