Abbreviated Abstract: Adverse childhood experiences such as early life adversity or stress and childhood trauma have a lifelong impact on mental and physical health. Childhood trauma has been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, the heritability of adverse childhood-related phenotypes such as PTSD, depression, and resilience is low to moderate, and is very variable for a given phenotype, which implies that gene by environment interactions (such as through epigenetic modifications) may be involved in the onset of these phenotypes.
Currently, there is increasing interest in the investigation of epigenetic contributions to adverse childhood-induced differential health outcomes. In this review, the basic concepts of epigenetic modifications (such as methylation) and the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the stress response are outlined. Examples of specific genes undergoing methylation in association with adverse childhood-induced differential health outcomes are provided. Limitations in this field are reviewed, with suggestions for advances using new technologies and novel research directions.
Jiang S, Postovit L, Cattaneo A, Binder EB and Aitchison KJ: Epigenetic Modifications in Stress Response Genes Associated with Childhood Trauma. Frontiers Psychiatry 2019 Nov 8;10:808. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00808. eCollection 2019.