Expression profiling associates blood and brain glucocorticoid receptor signaling with trauma-related individual differences in both sexes

Nikolaos P. Daskalakis, Hagit Cohen, Guiqing Cai, Joseph D. Buxbaum, Rachel Yehuda

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    78 Scopus citations


    Delineating the molecular basis of individual differences in the stress response is critical to understanding the pathophysiology and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this study, 7 d after predator-scent-stress (PSS) exposure, male and female rats were classified into vulnerable (i.e., "PTSD-like") and resilient (i.e.,minimally affected) phenotypes on the basis of their performance on a variety of behavioral measures. Genome-wide expression profiling in blood and two limbic brain regions (amygdala and hippocampus), followed by quantitative PCR validation, was performed in these two groups of animals, as well as in an unexposed control group. Differentially expressed genes were identified in blood and brain associated with PSSexposure and with distinct behavioral profiles postexposure. There was a small but significant between-tissue overlap (4-21%) for the genes associated with exposure-related individual differences, indicating convergent gene expression in both sexes. To uncover convergent signaling pathways across tissue and sex, upstream activated/deactivated transcription factorswere first predicted for each tissue and then the respective pathways were identified. Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signaling was the only convergent pathway associatedwith individual differences when using the most stringent statistical threshold. Corticosterone treatment 1 h after PSS-exposure prevented anxiety and hyperarousal 7 d later in both sexes, confirming the GR involvement in the PSS behavioral response. In conclusion, genes and pathways associated with extreme differences in the traumatic stress behavioral response can be distinguished from those associated with trauma exposure. Blood-based biomarkers can predict aspects of brain signaling. GR signaling is a convergent signaling pathway, associated with trauma-related individual differences in both sexes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13529-13534
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number37
    StatePublished - 16 Sep 2014


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