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Biol Res Nurs. 2018 May;20(3):352-358. doi: 10.1177/1099800418758951. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

Altered DNA Methylation Patterns Associated With Clinically Relevant Increases in PTSD Symptoms and PTSD Symptom Profiles in Military Personnel.

Author information

1 National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Christiana Martin and Young-Eun Cho are co-first authors.
2 Yotta Biomed, Potomac, MD, USA.
3 University of Nevada, School of Nursing, Las Vegas, NV, USA.
4 Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA, USA.


Military personnel experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is associated with differential DNA methylation across the whole genome. However, the relationship between these DNA methylation patterns and clinically relevant increases in PTSD severity is not yet clearly understood. The purpose of this study was to identify differences in DNA methylation associated with PTSD symptoms and investigate DNA methylation changes related to increases in the severity of PTSD in military personnel. In this pilot study, a cross-sectional comparison was made between military personnel with PTSD (n = 8) and combat-matched controls without PTSD (n = 6). Symptom measures were obtained, and genome-wide DNA methylation was measured using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP-seq) from whole blood samples at baseline and 3 months later. A longitudinal comparison measured DNA methylation changes in military personnel with clinically relevant increases in PTSD symptoms between time points (PTSD onset) and compared methylation patterns to controls with no clinical changes in PTSD. In military personnel with elevated PTSD symptoms 3 months following baseline, 119 genes exhibited reduced methylation and 8 genes exhibited increased methylation. Genes with reduced methylation in the PTSD-onset group relate to the canonical pathways of netrin signaling, Wnt/Ca+ pathway, and axonal guidance signaling. These gene pathways relate to neurological disorders, and the current findings suggest that these epigenetic changes potentially relate to PTSD symptomology. This study provides some novel insights into the role of epigenetic changes in PTSD symptoms and the progression of PTSD symptoms in military personnel.


DNA methylation; PTSD; biomarkers; military

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