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DNA methylation in regulatory elements of the FKBP5 and NR3C1 gene in mother-child binomials with depression.

BACKGROUND: The FKBP5 and NR3C1 genes play an important role in stress response, thus impacting mental health. Stress factor exposure in early life, such as maternal depression, may contribute to epigenetic modifications in stress response genes, increasing the susceptibility to different psychopathologies. The present study aimed to evaluate the DNA methylation profile in maternal-infant depression in regulatory regions of the FKBP5 gene and the alternative promoter of the NR3C1 gene.

METHODS: We evaluated 60 mother-infant pairs. The levels of DNA methylation were analyzed by the MSRED-qPCR technique.

RESULTS: We observed an increased DNA methylation profile in the NR3C1 gene promoter in children with depression and children exposed to maternal depression (p < 0.05). In addition, we observed a correlation of DNA methylation between mothers and offspring exposed to maternal depression. This correlation shows a possible intergenerational effect of maternal MDD exposure on the offspring. For FKBP5, we found a decrease in DNA methylation at intron 7 in children exposed to maternal MDD during pregnancy and a correlation of DNA methylation between mothers and children exposed to maternal MDD (p < 0.05).

LIMITATIONS: Although the individuals of this study are a rare group, the sample size of the study was small, and we evaluated the DNA methylation of only one CpG site for each region.

CONCLUSION: These results indicate changes in DNA methylation levels in regulatory regions of FKBP5 and NR3C1 in the mother-child MDD context and represent a potential target of studies to understand the depression etiology and how it occurs between generations.

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