Challenges in Analyzing Functional Epigenetic Data in Perspective of Adolescent Psychiatric Health

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 May 23;23(10):5856. doi: 10.3390/ijms23105856.


The formative period of adolescence plays a crucial role in the development of skills and abilities for adulthood. Adolescents who are affected by mental health conditions are at risk of suicide and social and academic impairments. Gene-environment complementary contributions to the molecular mechanisms involved in psychiatric disorders have emphasized the need to analyze epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation (DNAm) and non-coding RNAs. However, the large and diverse bioinformatic and statistical methods, referring to the confounders of the statistical models, application of multiple-testing adjustment methods, questions regarding the correlation of DNAm across tissues, and sex-dependent differences in results, have raised challenges regarding the interpretation of the results. Based on the example of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depressive disorder (MDD), we shed light on the current knowledge and usage of methodological tools in analyzing epigenetics. Statistical robustness is an essential prerequisite for a better understanding and interpretation of epigenetic modifications and helps to find novel targets for personalized therapeutics in psychiatric diseases.

Keywords: bioinformatics; epigenetic regulation; psychiatric conditions; statistical challenges.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epigenomics*
  • Humans
  • Suicide*