Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating neuropsychiatric disease with a projected lifetime risk of 8.7%. PTSD is highly comorbid with depressive disorders including major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD). It is hypothesized that the overlap in symptoms stems from partially shared underlying neurobiological mechanisms. To better understand shared and unique transcriptional patterns of PTSD and MDD we performed RNA-sequencing in the postmortem brain of two prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions and two amygdala (AMY) regions, from neurotypical donors (N=109) as well as donors with diagnoses of PTSD (N=107) or MDD (N=109) across 1285 RNA-seq samples. We identified a small number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) specific to PTSD, mostly in the cortex compared to amygdala. PTSD-specific DEGs were preferentially enriched in cortistatin-expressing cells, a subpopulation of somatostatin interneurons. These PTSD DEGs also showed strong enrichment for gene sets associated with immune-related pathways and microglia, largely driven by decreased expression of these genes in PTSD donors. While we identified a greater number of DEGs for MDD, there were only a few that were specific to MDD as they showed high overlap with PTSD DEGs. Finally, we used weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) as an orthogonal approach to confirm the observed cellular and molecular associations. These findings highlight the sub-population of cortistatin-expressing interneurons as having potential functional significance in PTSD and provide supporting evidence for dysregulated neuroinflammation and immune signaling in MDD and PTSD pathophysiology.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience