Experienced homophobia and gene expression alterations in Black and Latino men who have sex with men in Los Angeles County

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Jan;83:120-125. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.09.021. Epub 2019 Sep 26.


Men who have sex with men (MSM) experience high rates of homophobic victimization, which is linked to myriad chronic physical and mental health disparities. Social adversity such as rejection, isolation, and racial discrimination can induce a conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) involving upregulation of proinflammatory genes and downregulation of type I interferon and antibody synthesis genes. This study specifically examines whether homophobic victimization is associated with expression of CTRA profiles in Black and Latino MSM living in Los Angeles. Analyses linked behavioral survey data with quantified RNA from leukocytes from blood samples of 70 participants over 12 months. CTRA gene expression was increased by 3.1-fold in MSM who experienced homophobic victimization while adjusting for major leukocyte subsets and sociodemographics. Accounting for all these factors, CTRA gene expression was significantly enhanced in MSM who identified as Black compared to Latino. Our findings identify experiences of homophobic victimization as drivers of inflammatory and type I interferon gene expression profiles, which can contribute to physical and mental health challenges in Black and Latino MSM.

Keywords: Gene expression; Homophobia; Immune system; Inflammation; Men who have sex with men; Transcriptome; Victimization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American / genetics*
  • Hispanic or Latino / genetics*
  • Homophobia* / statistics & numerical data
  • Homosexuality, Male / genetics*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Transcriptome*
  • Young Adult