The relevance of epigenetics to PTSD: Implications for the DSM-V

Authors

  • Rachel Yehuda,

    Corresponding author
    1. PTSD Clinic and Research Program, James J. Peters VAMC, Bronx, NY and Traumatic Stress Studies Division, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
    • Bronx VA OOMH 116/A, 130 West Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY 10468
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  • Linda M. Bierer

    1. PTSD Clinic and Research Program, James J. Peters VAMC, Bronx, NY and Traumatic Stress Studies Division, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
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  • This work was supported by a VA Merit Review Grant (RY), by an NIMH Innovation Award RO1 Genetics, Endocrinology and PTSD Risk in the Population (RY), and funding from the Department of Defense (RY). The authors express gratitude to Dr. Janine Flory for carefully reading and commenting on this manuscript.

Abstract

Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, can occur in response to environmental influences to alter the functional expression of genes in an enduring and potentially, intergenerationally transmissible manner. As such, they may explain interindividual variation, as well as the long-lasting effects of trauma exposure. Although there are currently no findings that suggest epigenetic modifications that are specific to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or PTSD risk, many recent observations are compatible with epigenetic explanations. These include recent findings of stress-related gene expression, in utero contributions to infant biology, the association of PTSD risk with maternal PTSD, and the relevance of childhood adversity to the development of PTSD. The relevance of epigenetic mechanisms to formulations of PTSD for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) is described.

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