Epigenetic signatures of stress and mental health
Psychosocial stressors (e.g., perceived stress and stressful life events) are associated with a wide range of adverse mental and physical health outcomes. However, little is known about the physiological mechanisms through which stressors become embodied and subsequently influence health. Prior studies suggest that changes to the epigenome may mediate the relationships between psychosocial stressors and health outcomes, shaping vulnerability to certain diseases by altering gene expression patterns. Thus, identifying key epigenetic biomarkers that link psychosocial stressors with disease vulnerability would not only advance our understanding of disease etiology, but may also provide therapeutic targets for intervention. In this project, data from three multi-ethnic cohort studies will be leveraged to identify common epigenetic signatures associated with stressors as well as mental health outcomes (e.g., depression). For the identified epigenetic biomarkers, we will test whether the biomarkers mediate the relationship between psychosocial stress and mental health. Finally, we will evaluate the functional impact of the identified epigenetic biomarkers using gene expression data, and perform pathway analysis to identify potential causal pathways.