Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stress induces epigenetic changes

A very nice report that came from the Max Planck Institute shows that traumatic stress can induce changes in DNA that affect our ability to cope with future stress.  It's been published in Nature Neuroscience, as is a nice extension of the story which many of the authors reported on in 2008 to show stress associated SNPs in the FKPB5 region.

The team undertaking this study found that changes in the regulation of a gene called FK506 binding protein 5 (FKBP5) lead to an increase of FKBP5 gene activity in adulthood.  However, the epigenetic changes only happen in response to childhood stress events and not in adults, and only people with specific genetic signatures are susceptible to FKBP5 alterations.

Will FKBP5 testing become a method to identify people at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, and will a similarly performing gene be found for adult stress response?   If so, it might lead to methods to screen people out of high stress occupations, or at least to identify those who shouldn't be put in highly stressful situations.