Role of enhanced glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity in inflammation in PTSD: Insights from computational model for circadian-neuroendocrineimmune interactions

Pramod R. Somvanshi, Synthia H. Mellon, Rachel Yehuda, Janine D. Flory, Iouri Makotkine, Linda Bierer, Charles Marmar, Marti Jett, Francis J. Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Role of enhanced glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity in inflammation in PTSD: Insights from computational model for circadian-neuroendocrine-immune interactions. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 319: E48-E66, 2020. First published April 21, 2020; doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00398.2019.-Although glucocorticoid resistance contributes to increased inflammation, individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit increased glucocorticoid receptor (GR) sensitivity along with increased inflammation. It is not clear how inflammation coexists with a hyperresponsive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. To understand this better, we developed and analyzed an integrated mathematical model for the HPA axis and the immune system. We performed mathematical simulations for a dexamethasone (DEX) suppression test and IC50-dexamethasone for cytokine suppression by varying model parameters. The model analysis suggests that increasing the steepness of the dose-response curve for GR activity may reduce anti-inflammatory effects of GRs at the ambient glucocorticoid levels, thereby increasing proinflammatory response. The adaptive response of proinflammatory cytokinemediated stimulatory effects on the HPA axis is reduced due to dominance of the GR-mediated negative feedback on the HPA axis. To verify these hypotheses, we analyzed the clinical data on neuroendocrine variables and cytokines obtained from war-zone veterans with and without PTSD. We observed significant group differences for cortisol and ACTH suppression tests, proinflammatory cytokines TNF and IL6, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, promoter methylation of GR gene, and IC50-DEX for lysozyme suppression. Causal inference modeling revealed significant associations between cortisol suppression and post-DEX cortisol decline, promoter methylation of human GR gene exon 1F (NR3C1-1F), IC50-DEX, and proinflammatory cytokines. We noted significant mediation effects of NR3C1-1F promoter methylation on inflammatory cytokines through changes in GR sensitivity. Our findings suggest that increased GR sensitivity may contribute to increased inflammation; therefore, interventions to restore GR sensitivity may normalize inflammation in PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E48-E66
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Volume319
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Circadian
  • Glucocorticoid sensitivity
  • Inflammation
  • Neuroendocrine immune axis
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Systems biology
  • Systems model

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