Results of a new study make us think that specific genes may be taking a part in the susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study, which was managed by the researchers at the Mclean Hospital, published in the journal named Cell Reports, and conducted by an international team, may provide information about the prevention and treatment of PTSD.
In the face of recurrent, long-term or acute traumas, some individuals are more susceptible to PTSD, while some are resistant. Researching which individuals could be susceptible to PTSD can help develop effective interventions.
For the study, scientists used the genetic data collected from 195,684 people (29,539 with PTSD, 166,145 without PTSD) by the PTSD Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, and they estimated the machine-based expression models of the genes and other tissues through machines with learning models. The team found two genes, which brought about this difference in individuals with PTSD compared to those without PTSD.
In the brains of individuals with PTSD, a gene named SNRNP35 tends to have a low expression, while another gene named ZNF140 tends to have a higher expression.
Researchers pointed out that the SNRNP35 expression is important in a brain region that is related to stress management. Moreover, they found out that the expression of the SNRNP35 gene in the brain reduced upon the injection of high doses of stress hormone in mice.
As for the ZNF140 gene, the protein encoded by the gene is known to affect the expression of the genes in the immunity cells circulating in the blood. Therefore, a higher ZNF140 expression may trigger the immunity reaction of the body to improve susceptibility to PTSD.
Researchers reported additional studies are needed in order to reveal the comprehensive mechanisms behind the PTSD susceptibility of different genes and their effects on emotional flexibility.
“Our study provides a road map to develop and confirm “druggable targets” for prevention and treatment through populations susceptible to the risk of PTSD and via biological tests,” said Dr. Nikolaos P. Daskalakis, the director of the study.
“Determining the genetic effects of PTSD can help us understand how the body responds to traumatic experiences and point out new interventions that might help the affected patients,” said Kerry J. Ressler, CEO of the McLean Hospital.
– Huckins, Laura M., Chatzinakos, C., Breen, M… Nikolaos P. Analysis of Genetically Regulated Gene Expression Identifies a Prefrontal PTSD Gene, SNRNP35, Specific to Military Cohorts (2019).