To define the cellular mechanisms of up-regulated inflammatory gene expression and down-regulated antiviral response in people experiencing perceived social isolation (loneliness), we conducted integrative analyses of leukocyte gene regulation in humans and rhesus macaques. Five longitudinal leukocyte transcriptome surveys in 141 older adults showed up-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), monocyte population expansion, and up-regulation of the leukocyte conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA). Mechanistic analyses in a macaque model of perceived social isolation confirmed CTRA activation and identified selective up-regulation of the CD14(++)/CD16(-) classical monocyte transcriptome, functional glucocorticoid desensitization, down-regulation of Type I and II interferons, and impaired response to infection by simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). These analyses identify neuroendocrine-related alterations in myeloid cell population dynamics as a key mediator of CTRA transcriptome skewing, which may both propagate perceived social isolation and contribute to its associated health risks.
Keywords: health; inflammation; loneliness; social genomics.