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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Elisabeth B. Binder (binder@psych.mpg.de)

These authors contributed equally: Christoph A. Zimmermann, Janine Arloth, Dietmar Spengler and Elisabeth B. Binder

We thank Simone Röh for valuable discussions.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


Research Funding:

This study was supported by an ERC starting grant to EB (#281338, GxEmolmech).


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Psychiatry

Stress dynamically regulates co-expression networks of glucocorticoid receptor-dependent MDD and SCZ risk genes

Journal Title:

Translational Psychiatry


Volume 9, Number 1


, Pages 41-41

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Early-life adversity is an important risk factor for major depressive disorder (MDD) and schizophrenia (SCZ) that interacts with genetic factors to confer disease risk through mechanisms that are still insufficiently understood. One downstream effect of early-life adversity is the activation of glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-dependent gene networks that drive acute and long-term adaptive behavioral and cellular responses to stress. We have previously shown that genetic variants that moderate GR-induced gene transcription (GR-response eSNPs) are significantly enriched among risk variants from genome-wide association studies (GWASs) for MDD and SCZ. Here, we show that the 63 transcripts regulated by these disease-associated functional genetic variants form a tight glucocorticoid-responsive co-expression network (termed GCN). We hypothesized that changes in the correlation structure of this GCN may contribute to early-life adversity-associated disease risk. Therefore, we analyzed the effects of different qualities of social support and stress throughout life on GCN formation across distinct brain regions using a translational mouse model. We observed that different qualities of social experience substantially affect GCN structure in a highly brain region-specific manner. GCN changes were predominantly found in two functionally interconnected regions, the ventral hippocampus and the hypothalamus, two brain regions previously shown to be of relevance for the stress response, as well as psychiatric disorders. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that a subset of genetic variants may contribute to risk for MDD and SCZ by altering circuit-level effects of early and adult social experiences on GCN formation and structure.

Copyright information:

© 2019, The Author(s).

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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