Epigenetic patterns associated with the immune dysregulation that accompanies psychosocial distress

Herbert L. Mathews, Teresa Konley, Kelly Loster Kosik, Karen Krukowski, Justin Eddy, Kevin Albuquerque, Linda Witek Janusek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The molecular basis for psychosocial-distress mediated immune-dysregulation is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to determine whether peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) epigenetic pattern associates with this form of immune dysregulation. Women newly diagnosed with early stage breast cancer were enrolled into the study and psychosocial, immunological and epigenetic assessments were made at diagnosis and four months later, after completion of cancer treatment. At diagnosis women reported increased perceived stress, anxiety, and mood disturbance and the PBMC of these women exhibited reduced natural killer cell activity and reduced production of interferon gamma, which contrasted with results, obtained after completion of treatment. At the epigenetic level, a PBMC subset derived from women at diagnosis exhibited a distinct epigenetic pattern, with reduced nuclear acetylation of histone residues H4-K8 and H4-K12, as well as reduced phosphorylation of H3-S10, when compared to similar cells derived after the completion of treatment. Natural killer cell activity and interferon-gamma production were associated with nuclear acetylation and phosphorylation status of these histone residues. These findings demonstrate associations among nuclear epigenetic pattern and the immune dysregulation that accompanies psychosocial distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)830-839
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Epigenetic
  • Histone acetylation and phosphorylation
  • Interferon gamma
  • NK cell activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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