NR3C1 hypermethylation in depressed and bullied adolescents

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Jun 19;8(1):121. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0169-8.


The disruption of key epigenetic processes during critical periods of brain development can increase an individual's vulnerability to psychopathology later in life. For instance, DNA methylation in the glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) in adulthood is known to be associated with early-life adversities and has been suggested to mediate the development of stress-related disorders. However, the association between NR3C1 methylation and the emergence of internalizing symptoms in childhood and adolescence has not been studied extensively. In the present report, we used saliva DNA from a cohort of Swedish adolescents (13-14 years old; N = 1149) to measure NR3C1 methylation in the exon 1F region. Internalizing psychopathological symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC). We found that NR3C1 hypermethylation was cross-sectionally associated with high score for internalizing symptoms in the whole group as well as among the female participants. In addition, an analysis of social environmental stressors revealed that reports of bullied or lacking friends were significantly associated with NR3C1 hypermethylation. This cross-sectional association of NR3C1 exon 1F hypermethylation with internalizing psychopathology in adolescents, as well as with bullying and lack of friends are novel results in this field. Longitudinal studies are needed to address whether NR3C1 methylation mediates the link between social stressors and psychopathology in adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • CpG Islands
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics*
  • Saliva
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Sweden


  • NR3C1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid