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Epigenetics: A missing link between early life stress and depression

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110231
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry
E-pub ahead of print28 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


King's Authors


Research has suggested a relationship between early life stress, and depression in particular longer episodes of depression with treatment resistant outcomes. However, the underlying mechanisms for this association remain poorly understood. Molecular studies indicate that, in general, the hereditary character of psychiatric disorders are polygenic, multifactorial and highly complex, with innumerable low-effect genetic variants interacting with each other. In addition, the importance of the environment and its interaction with genes has pointed to a fundamental role of epigenetic mechanisms in psychiatric disorders, such as methylation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), alterations, histone actions and regulation of gene expression by non-coding ribonucleic acids (RNAs). This article provides an overview of the interplay of epigenetics, the HPA axis, early life stress and the development of depression. Advances in our knowledge of epigenetics in the context of early life stress and depression provide a new understanding of the genetic influence on psychopathology and could lead to the identification of new targets for clinical intervention.

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