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Investigating the effects of childhood maltreatment on pro-inflammatory signaling: The influence of cortisol and DHEA on cytokine secretion ex vivo

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  • Martha Leonie Geiger
  • Christina Boeck
  • Alexandra Maria Koenig
  • Katharina Schury
  • Christiane Waller
  • Stephan Kolassa
  • Alexander Karabatsiakis
  • Iris- Tatjana Kolassa
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Mental Health & Prevention
Volume13
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)176-186
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date3/05/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Childhood maltreatment (CM) is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation and an increased risk for the development of adverse mental and physical health outcomes in CM-affected adults. Differences in cortisol signaling were described to contribute to this pro-inflammatory phenotype. We investigated in a study cohort of 13 postpartum women with and 12 postpartum women without CM whether treatment of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) with cortisol, the anti-glucocorticoid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), or co-treatment with both differentially affected pro-inflammatory cytokine release ex vivo. The childhood trauma questionnaire was used to retrospectively assess CM and the severity of CM experiences (maltreatment load). PBMC of maltreated women (CM+) showed in all conditions an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion compared to PBMC of the control group (CM-), which was correlated with the maltreatment load. Ex vivo stimulation analyses provided preliminary evidence for a differential responsivity of PBMC in CM+ and CM- women to cortisol regarding TNF-α secretion, but no difference in the responsivity to DHEA treatment. The results of the co-treatment with cortisol and DHEA support the hypothesis that cortisol and DHEA interact in the modulation of inflammatory processes.