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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Mar 23;107(12):5681-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0911515107. Epub 2010 Feb 22.

Computational identification of gene-social environment interaction at the human IL6 locus.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Norman Cousins Center, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


To identify genetic factors that interact with social environments to impact human health, we used a bioinformatic strategy that couples expression array-based detection of environmentally responsive transcription factors with in silico discovery of regulatory polymorphisms to predict genetic loci that modulate transcriptional responses to stressful environments. Tests of one predicted interaction locus in the human IL6 promoter (SNP rs1800795) verified that it modulates transcriptional response to beta-adrenergic activation of the GATA1 transcription factor in vitro. In vivo validation studies confirmed links between adverse social conditions and increased transcription of GATA1 target genes in primary neural, immune, and cancer cells. Epidemiologic analyses verified the health significance of those molecular interactions by documenting increased 10-year mortality risk associated with late-life depressive symptoms that occurred solely for homozygous carriers of the GATA1-sensitive G allele of rs1800795. Gating of depression-related mortality risk by IL6 genotype pertained only to inflammation-related causes of death and was associated with increased chronic inflammation as indexed by plasma C-reactive protein. Computational modeling of molecular interactions, in vitro biochemical analyses, in vivo animal modeling, and human molecular epidemiologic analyses thus converge in identifying beta-adrenergic activation of GATA1 as a molecular pathway by which social adversity can alter human health risk selectively depending on individual genetic status at the IL6 locus.

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