Longitudinal genome-wide methylation study of PTSD treatment using prolonged exposure and hydrocortisone

Ruoting Yang, Changxin Xu, Linda M. Bierer, Janine D. Flory, Aarti Gautam, Heather N. Bader, Amy Lehrner, Iouri Makotkine, Frank Desarnaud, Stacy A. Miller, Marti Jett, Rasha Hammamieh, Rachel Yehuda

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4 Scopus citations


Epigenetic changes are currently invoked as explanations for both the chronicity and tenacity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a heterogeneous condition showing varying, sometimes idiosyncratic responses to treatment. This study evaluated epigenetic markers in the context of a randomized clinical trial of PTSD patients undergoing prolonged-exposure psychotherapy with and without a hydrocortisone augmentation prior to each session. The purpose of the longitudinal epigenome-wide analyses was to identify predictors of recovery (from pretreatment data) or markers associated with symptom change (based on differences between pre- and post-therapy epigenetic changes). The results of these analyses identified the CREB–BDNF signaling pathway, previously linked to startle reaction and fear learning and memory processes, as a convergent marker predicting both symptom change and severity. Several previous-reported resilience markers were also identified (FKBP5, NR3C1, SDK1, and MAD1L1) to associate with PTSD recovery in this study. Especially, the methylation levels of FKBP5 in the gene body region decreased significantly as CAPS score decreased in responders, while no changes occurred in nonresponders. These biomarkers may have future utility in understanding clinical recovery in PTSD and potential applications in predicting treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number398
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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