Researchers identify genes linked to the effects of mood and stress on longevity

May 24, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- The visible impacts of depression and stress that can be seen in a person's face -- and contribute to shorter lives -- can also be found in alterations in genetic activity, according to newly published research.

In a series of studies involving both C. elegans worms and human cohorts, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Scripps Research Institute have identified a series of genes that may modulate the effects of good or bad mood and response to stress on lifespan. In particular, the research pointed to a gene known as ANK3 as playing a key role in affecting longevity. The research was published May 24, 2016 in the Nature Publishing Group journal Molecular Psychiatry, the top ranked journal in the field of psychiatry.

"We were looking for genes that might be at the interface between mood, stress and longevity", said Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the IU School of Medicine. "We have found a series of genes involved in mood disorders and stress disorders which also seem to be involved in longevity.

"Our subsequent analyses of these genes found that they change in expression with age, and that people subject to significant stress and/or mood disorders, such as people who completed suicide, had a shift in expression levels of these genes that would be associated with premature aging and reduced longevity" said Dr. Niculescu, who is also attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Indianapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The research began with studies in C. elegans, a worm widely used in life sciences research. An earlier study by one of the study co-authors, Michael Petrascheck, Ph.D., of the Scripps Research Institute, found that exposing C. elegans to the antidepressant mianserin, which is used to treat mood and stress disorders, extended the animal's lifespan.

In the Molecular Psychiatry study, the researchers methodically conducted a series of analyses to discover, prioritize, validate, and understand the genes involved, comprising ten steps:

The authors said that "these studies uncover ANK3 and other genes in our dataset as biological links between mood, stress and lifespan, that may be biomarkers for biological age as well as targets for personalized preventive or therapeutic interventions."
-end-
Additional information about Dr. Niculescu's work is available at his laboratory website: http://www.neurophenomics.info.

Additional investigators contributing to the research were Sunitha Rangaraju, Daniel R. Salomon and Michael Petrascheck of the Scripps Research Institute; Daniel F. Levey, Kwangsik Nho, Nitika Jain, Katie Andrews, Helen Le-Niculescu and Andrew J. Saykin of the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The research was supported by two National Institutes of Health Directors' New Innovator Awards (1DP2OD007363 and 1DP2OD008398), as well as NIH U19 A1063603, NIH R00 LM011384 and IADC P30 AG010133.

Indiana University

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