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Suppressed monocyte gene expression profile in men versus women with PTSD

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There have been several attempts to use gene microarrays from peripheral blood mononuclear cells to identify new biological pathways or targets for therapy in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The few studies conducted to date have yielded an unclear pattern of findings, perhaps reflecting the use of heterogeneous samples of circulating immune cells for analysis. We used gene microarrays on a homogeneous sample of circulating monocytes to test the hypothesis that chronic PTSD would be associated with elevated inflammatory activity and to identify new pathways dysregulated in the disorder. Forty-nine men (24 PTSD+ and 25 age-matched trauma-exposed PTSD− controls) and 18 women (10 PTSD+ and 8 age-matched PTSD− controls) were recruited. Gene expression microarray analysis was performed on CD14+ monocytes, immune cells that initiate and respond to inflammatory signaling. Male subjects with PTSD had an overall pattern of under-expression of genes on monocytes (47 under-expressed versus 4 over-expressed genes). A rigorous correction for multiple comparisons and verification with q-PCR showed that of only 3 genes that were differentially expressed, all were under-expressed. There was no transcriptional evidence of chronic inflammation in male PTSD+ subjects. In contrast, preliminary data from our pilot female PTSD+ subjects showed a relatively balanced pattern of increased and decreased expression of genes and an increase in activity of pathways related to immune activation. The results indicate differential patterns of monocyte gene expression in PTSD, and the preliminary data from our female pilot subjects are suggestive of gender dimorphism in biologic pathways activated in PTSD. Changes in immune cell gene expression may contribute to medical morbidity in PTSD.

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