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Open Access Review

Epigenetic modifications associated with suicide and common mood and anxiety disorders: a systematic review of the literature

Abdulrahman M El-Sayed12*, Michelle R Haloossim3, Sandro Galea4 and Karestan C Koenen5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th Street, R521, New York, NY 10032, USA

2 College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

3 Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th Street, New York, NY, 10032, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th Street, 1508, New York, NY, 10032, USA

5 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W. 168th Street, R720G, New York, NY, 10032, USA

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Citation and License

Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2012, 2:10  doi:10.1186/2045-5380-2-10

Published: 14 June 2012

Abstract

Epigenetic modifications are those reversible, mitotically heritable alterations in genomic expression that occur independent of changes in gene sequence. Epigenetic studies have the potential to improve our understanding of the etiology of mood and anxiety disorders and suicide by bridging the gap in knowledge between the exogenous environmental exposures and pathophysiology that produce common mood and anxiety disorders and suicide. We systematically reviewed the English-language peer-reviewed literature about epigenetic regulation in these disorders between 2001–2011, summarizing and synthesizing this literature with respect to directions for future work. Twenty-one articles met our inclusion criteria. Twelve studies were concerned with epigenetic changes among suicide completers; other studies considered epigenetic regulation in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder. Several studies focused on epigenetic regulation of amine, glucocorticoid, and serotonin metabolism in the production of common mood and anxiety disorders and suicide. The literature is nascent and has yet to reach consensus about the roles of particular epigenetic modifications in the etiology of these outcomes. Future studies require larger sample sizes and measurements of environmental exposures antecedent to epigenetic modification. Further work is also needed to clarify the link between epigenetic modifications in the brain and peripheral tissues and to establish ‘gold standard’ epigenetic assays.

Keywords:
Epigenetics; Mood disorders; Anxiety disorders; Suicide; Depression; PTSD; Histone modification; Methylation