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Psychosocial Impact of Epigenetics in Pediatrics

  • Xiaoming Gong
  • Lewis P. RubinEmail author
Reference work entry

Abstract

Psychosocial stress has pervasive influences on our lives. Both human and experimental animal studies demonstrate that psychosocial stressor exposures experienced during early (prenatal and infant) life can modify risks for health deterioration and disease in later life. In many cases, adapting to stress can lead to resilience and strengthen the organism, but chronic or severe stress often has harmful, maladaptive consequences. Chronic malnutrition, changes in social conditions, and adverse early life experiences can program phenotypes and contribute to long-lasting disease risk. A growing body of evidence indicates that epigenetic mechanisms play a major role in the biological response to psychosocial stresses. In this chapter, we summarize current knowledge on epigenetic changes in response to psychosocial stressors in the pediatric age group. We focus on epigenetic mechanisms, in particular DNA methylation, as molecular mechanisms that link psychosocial stress and health consequences, and discuss common epigenetic effector pathways during psychosocial stressors at different stages in development.

Keywords

Epigenetic modification Early life stress Prenatal stress Postnatal stress HPA axis DNA methylation microRNAs 

List of Abbreviations

AL

Allostatic load

BDNF

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor

CRH

Corticotropin-releasing hormone

DOHaD

Developmental origins of health and disease

FKBP5

FK506 binding protein 5

GC

Glucocorticoid

GR

Glucocorticoid receptor

HPA

Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal

LBW

Low birth weight

ncRNAs

Noncoding RNAs

NR3C1

Nuclear receptor subfamily 3 group C member 1

PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder

SES

Socioeconomic status

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, Paul L. Foster School of MedicineTexas Tech University Health Sciences Center El PasoEl PasoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Pediatrics and Biomedical Sciences, Paul L. Foster School of MedicineTexas Tech University Health Sciences Center El PasoEl PasoUSA

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