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Socioeconomic deprivation, adverse childhood experiences and medical disorders in adulthood: mechanisms and associations

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-08-01, 00:00 authored by Gerwyn Morris, Michael BerkMichael Berk, Michael Maes, André F Carvalho, Basant K Puri
Severe socioeconomic deprivation (SED) and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are significantly associated with the development in adulthood of (i) enhanced inflammatory status and/or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction and (ii) neurological, neuroprogressive, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The mechanisms by which these associations take place are detailed. The two sets of consequences are themselves strongly associated, with the first set likely contributing to the second. Mechanisms enabling bidirectional communication between the immune system and the brain are described, including complex signalling pathways facilitated by factors at the level of immune cells. Also detailed are mechanisms underpinning the association between SED, ACE and the genesis of peripheral inflammation, including epigenetic changes to immune system-related gene expression. The duration and magnitude of inflammatory responses can be influenced by genetic factors, including single nucleotide polymorphisms, and by epigenetic factors, whereby pro-inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species and nuclear factor-κB affect gene DNA methylation and histone acetylation and also induce several microRNAs including miR-155, miR-181b-1 and miR-146a. Adult HPA axis activity is regulated by (i) genetic factors, such as glucocorticoid receptor polymorphisms; (ii) epigenetic factors affecting glucocorticoid receptor function or expression, including the methylation status of alternative promoter regions of NR3C1 and the methylation of FKBP5 and HSD11β2; (iii) chronic inflammation and chronic nitrosative and oxidative stress. Finally, it is shown how severe psychological stress adversely affects mitochondrial structure and functioning and is associated with changes in brain mitochondrial DNA copy number and transcription; mitochondria can act as couriers of childhood stress into adulthood.



Molecular neurobiology






5866 - 5890




New York, N.Y.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, The Author(s)