Childhood trauma has been proposed to increase vulnerability to develop psychopathology in part through an altered cortisol stress response. Research in rats has suggested that this effect is mediated by methylation in the glucocorticoid receptor 1(7) region (GR-1(7) or GR-1(F) in humans), with higher methylation after poor maternal care leading to an increased cortisol stress response in adulthood. In humans, the associations between childhood trauma and GR-1(F) methylation or the cortisol stress response are equivocal. Remarkably, evidence for the relation between GR-1(F) methylation and the cortisol stress response has been conflicting as well. To further explore this, we investigated the associations of peripheral GR-1(F) methylation (52 CpGs) with the cortisol stress response (Trier Social Stress Test) and with childhood trauma in three independent studies (total N = 241) including healthy controls, patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and unaffected siblings of patients with one of these disorders. We did not find any significant association between GR-1(F) methylation and the cortisol stress response (areas under the curve) or childhood trauma, nor did we observe any group differences between patients, siblings and healthy controls. Our findings do not support GR-1(F) methylation as a proxy for the cortisol stress response, nor its link with childhood trauma or psychopathology. These results suggest that multifactorial models for stress-related psychopathology are needed. Alternatively, future longitudinal studies may reveal GR-1(F) methylation to be a useful parameter at an individual level.
- CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
- GENE METHYLATION