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Differences in susceptibility to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be related to epigenetic differences between PTSD cases and trauma-exposed controls. Such epigenetic differences may provide insight into the biological processes underlying the disorder. Here we describe the results of the largest DNA methylation meta-analysis of PTSD to date with data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) PTSD Epigenetics Workgroup. Ten cohorts, military and civilian, contributed blood-derived DNA methylation data (HumanMethylation450 BeadChip) from 1,896 PTSD cases (42%) and trauma-exposed controls (58%). Utilizing a common QC and analysis strategy, we identified ten CpG sites associated with PTSD (9.61E-07<p<4.72E-11) after adjustment for multiple comparisons (FDR<.05). Several CpGs were located in genes previously implicated in PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. The top four CpG sites fell within the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor repressor (AHRR) locus and were associated with lower DNA methylation in PTSD cases relative to controls. Interestingly, this association appeared to uncorrelated with smoking status and was most pronounced in non-smokers with PTSD. Additional evaluation of metabolomics data supported our findings and revealed that AHRR methylation associated with kynurenine levels, which were lower among subjects with PTSD relative to controls. Overall, this study supports epigenetic differences in those with PTSD and suggests a role for decreased kynurenine as a contributor to immune dysregulation in PTSD.

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