Are Gene Expression Differences in PTSD Uniquely Related to the Intrusion Symptom Cluster?

Research Paper Title

Gene expression differences in PTSD are uniquely related to the intrusion symptom cluster: A transcriptome-wide analysis in military service members.

Background

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with wide-spread immune dysregulation; however, little is known about the gene expression differences attributed to each PTSD symptom cluster.

This is an important consideration when identifying diagnostic and treatment response markers in highly co-morbid populations with mental and physical health conditions that share symptoms.

Methods

To this aim, the researchers utilised a transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression in peripheral blood by comparing military service members:

  • With vs. without PTSD;
  • With high vs. low PTSD cluster symptom severity; and
  • With improved vs. not improved PTSD symptoms following 4-8 weeks of evidenced-based sleep treatment.

Results

Data were analysed at a ±2.0-fold change magnitude with subsequent gene ontology-based pathway analysis. In participants with PTSD (n = 39), 89 differentially expressed genes were identified, and 94% were upregulated.

In participants with high intrusion symptoms (n = 22), 1040 differentially expressed genes were identified, and 98% were upregulated.

No differentially expressed genes were identified for the remaining two PTSD symptom clusters.

Ten genes (C5orf24, RBAK, CREBZF, CD69, PMAIP1, AGL, ZNF644, ANKRD13C, ESCO1, and ZCCHC10) were upregulated in participants with PTSD and high intrusion symptoms at baseline and downregulated in participants with improved PTSD symptoms following treatment.

Conclusions

Pathway analysis identified upregulated immune response systems and metabolic networks with a NF-kB hub, which were downregulated with symptom reduction. Molecular biomarkers implicated in intrusion symptoms and PTSD symptom improvement may inform the development of therapeutic targets for precise treatment of PTSD.

Reference

Rusch, H.L., Robinson, J., Yun, S., Osier, N.D., Martin, C., Brewin, C.R. & Gill, J.M. (2019) Gene expression differences in PTSD are uniquely related to the intrusion symptom cluster: A transcriptome-wide analysis in military service members. Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity. pii: S0889-1591(19)30154-0. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.039. [Epub ahead of print].

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