Accelerated DNA methylation aging and increased resilience in veterans: the biological cost for soldiering on
Charles P. Morris,
Ross McD. Young,
Elisabeth B. Binder,
Posted 23 Oct 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/207688 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2018.04.001)
Posted 23 Oct 2017
Accelerated epigenetic aging, the difference between the DNA methylation-predicted age (DNAm age) and the chronological age, is associated with a myriad of diseases. This study investigates the relationship between epigenetic aging and risk and protective factors of PTSD. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was performed in 211 individuals including combat-exposed Australian veterans (discovery cohort, n = 96 males) and trauma-exposed civilian males from the Grady Trauma Project (replication cohort, n = 115 males). Primary measures included the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 and the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CDRISC). DNAm age prediction was performed using the validated epigenetic clock calculator. Veterans with PTSD had increased PTSD symptom severity (P-value = 3.75 x10-34) and lower CDRISC scores (P-value = 7.5 x10-8) than veterans without PTSD. DNAm age was significantly correlated with the chronological age (P-value = 3.3 x 10-6), but DNAm age acceleration was not different between the PTSD and non-PTSD groups (P-value = 0.24). Evaluating potential protective factors, we found that DNAm age acceleration was significantly associated with CDRISC resilience scores in veterans with PTSD, these results remained significant after multiple testing correction (P-value = 0.023; r = 0.32). This finding was also replicated in an independent trauma-exposed civilian cohort (P-value = 0.02; r = 0.23). Post-hoc factor analyses revealed that this association was driven by 'self-efficacy' items within the CDRISC (P-value = 0.015). These results suggest that among individuals already suffering from PTSD, some aspects of increased resilience might come at a biological cost.
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