Fatty acid dysregulation in the anterior cingulate cortex of depressed suicides with a history of child abuse

Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 18;11(1):535. doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01657-4.


Child abuse (CA) strongly increases the lifetime risk of suffering from major depression and predicts an unfavorable course for the illness. Severe CA has been associated with a specific dysregulation of oligodendrocyte function and thinner myelin sheaths in the human anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) white matter. Given that myelin is extremely lipid-rich, it is plausible that these findings may be accompanied by a disruption of the lipid profile that composes the myelin sheath. This is important to explore since the composition of fatty acids (FA) in myelin phospholipids can influence its stability, permeability, and compactness. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify and compare FA concentrations in postmortem ACC white matter in the choline glycerophospholipid pool (ChoGpl), a key myelin phospholipid pool, between adult depressed suicides with a history of CA (DS-CA) matched depressed suicides without CA (DS) and healthy non-psychiatric controls (CTRL). Total lipids were extracted from 101 subjects according to the Folch method and separated into respective classes using thin-layer chromatography. FA methyl esters from the ChoGpl fraction were quantified using gas chromatography. Our analysis revealed specific effects of CA in FAs from the arachidonic acid synthesis pathway, which was further validated with RNA-sequencing data. Furthermore, the concentration of most FAs was found to decrease with age. By extending the previous molecular level findings linking CA with altered myelination in the ACC, these results provide further insights regarding white matter alterations associated with early-life adversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major*
  • Fatty Acids
  • Gyrus Cinguli
  • Humans
  • Phospholipids
  • Suicide*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Phospholipids