Reduced interleukin 1A gene expression in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of individuals with PTSD and depression

Neurosci Lett. 2019 Jan 23;692:204-209. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2018.10.027. Epub 2018 Oct 23.


The inflammatory system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of a variety of psychiatric conditions. Individuals with PTSD, depression, and other fear- and anxiety-related disorders exhibit alterations in peripheral circulating inflammatory markers, suggesting dysregulation of the inflammatory system. The relationship between inflammation and PTSD has been investigated almost exclusively in the periphery, and has not been extensively explored in human postmortem brain tissue. Interleukins (ILs) represent a subtype of cytokines and are key signaling proteins in the immune and inflammatory systems. Based on prior research implicating IL signaling in PTSD and depression, we performed a preliminary investigation of IL gene expression in a region of the cortex involved in emotion regulation and PTSD, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), using tissue from the newly established VA National PTSD Brain Bank. Gene expression analyses were conducted on post-mortem tissue from the dlPFC from 50 donors: 13 controls, 12 PTSD cases, and 25 depressed cases. RNA was extracted from frozen dlPFC tissue, reverse transcribed to cDNA, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was performed to assess gene expression of IL1A, IL1B, IL6, IL8, IL10, IL13, and IL15. We found a multiple-testing corrected significant decrease in IL1A expression in the dlPFC for PTSD and depression cases compared to controls (p < 0.005) with age at death, sex, race and RNA integrity number (RIN) included as covariates. To our knowledge this finding is the first demonstration of altered IL expression in brain tissue from deceased individuals with histories of PTSD and/or depression.

Keywords: Depression; Gene expression; IL1A; Inflammation; Interleukin; Neuroinflammation; PTSD; Postmortem; Prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1alpha / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1alpha / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / genetics*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / metabolism
  • Transcriptome


  • Interleukin-1alpha