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Relationship between clinical features and inflammation-related monocyte gene expression in bipolar disorder – towards a better understanding of psychoimmunological interactions




Existing and previously published datasets were examined for associations between illness and treatment characteristics and monocyte pro-inflammatory gene expression in patients with bipolar disorder (BD). We hypothesized a priori that increased monocyte pro-inflammatory gene expression would be found more frequently in patients with a lifetime history of psychotic symptoms.


Monocyte quantitative polymerase chain reaction and symptom data from 64 patients with BD were collected from three Dutch studies. Regression analyses were performed to analyze the various associations between pro-inflammatory gene expression and clinical features, from which feature-expression heat maps were drawn.


No associations were found between pro-inflammatory gene expression and lifetime psychotic symptoms, whereas a positive association was identified between subcluster 2 genes and manic symptoms. For several subcluster 1a genes, a negative association was found with age at onset. For most subcluster 2 genes, a positive association was found with the duration of illness. Current use of antidepressants and of anti-epileptic agents was associated with subcluster 2 gene expression, and current use of lithium and antipsychotic agents with subcluster 1a gene expression.


Our hypothesis that lifetime psychotic features would be associated with pro-inflammatory monocyte gene expression was not confirmed. In an explorative analysis we found: (i) a possible relationship between pro-inflammatory gene expression and manic symptomatology; (ii) a differential immune activation related to age at onset and duration of illness; and (iii) support for the concept of an immune suppressive action of some of the mood-regulating medications.

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