Transcript origin analysis identifies antigen-presenting cells as primary targets of socially regulated gene expression in leukocytes

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):3080-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014218108. Epub 2011 Feb 7.


To clarify the biological rationale for social regulation of gene expression, this study sought to identify the specific immune cell types that are transcriptionally sensitive to subjective social isolation (loneliness). Using reference distributions for the expression of each human gene in each major leukocyte subtype, we mapped the cellular origin of transcripts found to be differentially expressed in the circulating immune cells from chronically lonely individuals. Loneliness-associated genes derived primarily from plasmacytoid dendritic cells, monocytes, and, to a lesser extent, B lymphocytes. Those dynamics reflected per-cell changes in the expression of inducible genes and related more strongly to the subjective experience of loneliness than to objective social network size. Evolutionarily ancient myeloid antigen-presenting cells appear to have evolved a transcriptional sensitivity to socioenvironmental conditions that may allow them to shift basal gene expression profiles to counter the changing microbial threats associated with hostile vs. affine social conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Loneliness*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Social Environment*

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE25837