Gene expression in the dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortices implicates immune-related gene networks in PTSD

the Traumatic Stress Brain Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Studies evaluating neuroimaging, genetically predicted gene expression, and pre-clinical genetic models of PTSD, have identified PTSD-related abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain, particularly in dorsolateral and ventromedial PFC (dlPFC and vmPFC). In this study, RNA sequencing was used to examine gene expression in the dlPFC and vmPFC using tissue from the VA National PTSD Brain Bank in donors with histories of PTSD with or without depression (dlPFC n = 38, vmPFC n = 35), depression cases without PTSD (n = 32), and psychopathology-free controls (dlPFC n = 24, vmPFC n = 20). Analyses compared PTSD cases to controls. Follow-up analyses contrasted depression cases to controls. Twenty-one genes were differentially expressed in PTSD after strict multiple testing correction. PTSD-associated genes with roles in learning and memory (FOS, NR4A1), immune regulation (CFH, KPNA1) and myelination (MBP, MOBP, ERMN) were identified. PTSD-associated genes partially overlapped depression-associated genes. Co-expression network analyses identified PTSD-associated networks enriched for immune-related genes across the two brain regions. However, the immune-related genes and association patterns were distinct. The immune gene IL1B was significantly associated with PTSD in candidate-gene analysis and was an upstream regulator of PTSD-associated genes in both regions. There was evidence of replication of dlPFC associations in an independent cohort from a recent study, and a strong correlation between the dlPFC PTSD effect sizes for significant genes in the two studies (r = 0.66, p < 2.2 × 10−16). In conclusion, this study identified several novel PTSD-associated genes and brain region specific PTSD-associated immune-related networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100398
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Expression
  • PTSD
  • RNAseq
  • dlPFC
  • vmPFC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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