A review of epigenetics of PTSD in comorbid psychiatric conditions

Caren J. Blacker, Mark A. Frye, Eva Morava, Tamas Kozicz, Marin Veldic

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an acquired psychiatric disorder with functionally impairing physiological and psychological symptoms following a traumatic exposure. Genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors act together to determine both an individual’s susceptibility to PTSD and its clinical phenotype. In this literature review, we briefly review the candidate genes that have been implicated in the development and severity of the PTSD phenotype. We discuss the importance of the epigenetic regulation of these candidate genes. We review the general epigenetic mechanisms that are currently understood, with examples of each in the PTSD phenotype. Our focus then turns to studies that have examined PTSD in the context of comorbid psychiatric disorders or associated social and behavioral stressors. We examine the epigenetic variation in cases or models of PTSD with comorbid depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and substance use disorders. We reviewed the literature that has explored epigenetic regulation in PTSD in adverse childhood experiences and suicide phenotypes. Finally, we review some of the information available from studies of the transgenerational transmission of epigenetic variation in maternal cases of PTSD. We discuss areas pertinent for future study to further elucidate the complex interactions between epigenetic modifications and this complex psychiatric disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number140
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Epigenetic
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychiatric disorders


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