Increased DNA methylation in the suicide brain

Fatemeh Haghighi, Yurong Xin, Benjamin Chanrion, Anne H. O'Donnell, Yongchao Ge, Andrew J. Dwork, Victoria Arango, J. John Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Clinical studies find that childhood adversity and stressful life events in adulthood increase the risk for major depression and for suicide. The predispositions to either major depression or suicide are thought to depend on genetic risk factors or epigenetic effects. We investigated DNA methylation signatures postmortem in brains of suicides with diagnosis of major depressive disorder. DNA methylation levels were determined at single C-phosphate-G (CpG) resolution sites within ventral prefrontal cortex of 53 suicides and nonpsychiatric controls, aged 16 to 89 years. We found that DNA methylation increases throughout the lifespan. Suicides showed an 8-fold greater number of methylated CpG sites relative to controls (P<2.2×10-16), with greater DNA methylation changes over and above the increased methylation observed in normal aging. This increased DNA methylation may be a significant contributor to the neuropathology and psychopathology underlying the risk of suicide in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-438
Number of pages9
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Aging
  • DNA methylation
  • Depression
  • Epigenetics
  • Mood disorder
  • Suicide


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