Early-life stress interactions with the epigenome: Potential mechanisms driving vulnerability toward psychiatric illness

Candace R. Lewis, Michael Olive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Throughout the 20th century a body of literature concerning the long-lasting effects of the early environment was produced. Adverse experiences in early life, or early-life stress (ELS), is associated with a higher risk of developing various psychiatric illnesses. The mechanisms driving the complex interplay between ELS and adult phenotype has baffled many investigators for decades. Over the last decade, the new field of neuroepigenetics has emerged as one possible mechanism by which ELS can have far-reaching effects on adult phenotype, behavior, and risk for psychiatric illness. Here we review two commonly investigated epigenetic mechanisms, histone modifications and DNA methylation, and the emerging field of neuroepigenetics as they relate to ELS. We discuss the current animal literature demonstrating ELS-induced epigenetic modulation of gene expression that results in altered adult phenotypes. We also briefly discuss other areas in which neuroepigenetics has emerged as a potential mechanism underlying environmental and genetic interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-351
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Volume25
Issue number5-6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Keywords

  • early-life stress
  • epigenetics
  • life stress
  • maternal separation
  • neuroepigenetics
  • physiological stress reactivity
  • psychological stress
  • stressful events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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