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Childhood maltreatment and HPA axis gene expression in bipolar disorders: A gene network analysis

Highlights•Global level of childhood trauma in BD was not linked with HPA axis gene expression.•However, emotional abuse was associated with the gene expression of DGKH and NR3C1.•Univariate analyses were confirmed by disjoint graph network expression.•A co-regulation of DGKH and NR3C1 in presence of emotional abuse is suggested.AbstractIntroductionBipolar disorder (BD) is highly associated with childhood maltreatment (CM), the exposure to such early adversity being suggested to disrupt the expression of several biological pathways. This study aims at exploring associations between the mRNA levels of 9 HPA axis genes in lymphoblastoid cell lines from patients with BD according to their self-reported exposure to CM.MethodsThe sample consisted of 33 Caucasian patients with a diagnosis of BD type 1, assessed for the exposure to CM with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Quantitative RT-PCR was performed on 9 transcripts of the HPA axis genes: DGKH, FKBP5, NR3C1, SGK1, SGK2, SGK3, SKA2, STAT5A and UCN. RT-qPCR data were analyzed using the method of disjoint gene networks with SARP.compo package for R.ResultsWe found no associations between CTQ total score and the amount of HPA axis transcripts neither in univariate analyses, nor with network analyses. Emotional abuse (EA) was associated with a significant decreased expression of two transcripts, DGKH (p = 0.009) and NR3C1 (p = 0.04). This was confirmed by the disjoint network analysis, which showed that NR3C1 and DGKH were expressed differently from the rest of the HPA axis network in presence of emotional abuse.DiscussionThis study described the expression levels of a comprehensive set of HPA axis genes according to childhood maltreatment in a sample of patients with BD type 1 and suggested that emotional abuse decreased the expression of NR3C1 and DGKH. Our results require further replication in independent larger samples.


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