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Transgenerational impact of intimate partner violence on methylation in the promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor

Authors
Journal
Translational Psychiatry
2158-3188
Publisher
Nature Publishing Group
Publication Date
Volume
1
Issue
7
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1038/tp.2011.21
Keywords
  • Original Article
Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Psychology

Abstract

Prenatal exposure to maternal stress can have lifelong implications for psychological function, such as behavioral problems and even the development of mental illness. Previous research suggests that this is due to transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes operating in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, such as the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). However, it is not known whether intrauterine exposure to maternal stress affects the epigenetic state of these genes beyond infancy. Here, we analyze the methylation status of the GR gene in mothers and their children, at 10–19 years after birth. We combine these data with a retrospective evaluation of maternal exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV). Methylation of the mother's GR gene was not affected by IPV. For the first time, we show that methylation status of the GR gene of adolescent children is influenced by their mother's experience of IPV during pregnancy. As these sustained epigenetic modifications are established in utero, we consider this to be a plausible mechanism by which prenatal stress may program adult psychosocial function.

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