Additive effects of stress and alcohol exposure on accelerated epigenetic aging in alcohol use disorder

Jeesun Jung, Daniel L McCartney, Josephin Wagner, Joyce Yoo, Andrew S Bell, Lucas A Mavromatis, Daniel B Rosoff, Colin A Hodgkinson, Hui Sun, Melanie Schwandt, Nancy Diazgranados, Alicia K Smith, Vasiliki Michopoulos, Abigail Powers, Jennifer Stevens, Bekh Bradley, Negar Fani, Rosie M Walker, Archie Campbell, David J PorteousAndrew M McIntosh, Steve Horvath, Riccardo E Marioni, Kathryn L Evans, David Goldman, Falk W Lohoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Stress contributes to premature aging and susceptibility to alcohol use disorder (AUD), and AUD itself is a factor in premature aging; however, the interrelationships of stress, AUD, and premature aging are poorly understood.

METHODS: We constructed a composite score of stress from 13 stress-related outcomes in a discovery cohort of 317 individuals with AUD and control subjects. We then developed a novel methylation score of stress (MS stress) as a proxy of composite score of stress comprising 211 CpGs selected using a penalized regression model. The effects of MS stress on health outcomes and epigenetic aging were assessed in a sample of 615 patients with AUD and control subjects using epigenetic clocks and DNA methylation-based telomere length. Statistical analysis with an additive model using MS stress and a MS for alcohol consumption (MS alcohol) was conducted. Results were replicated in 2 independent cohorts (Generation Scotland, N = 7028 and the Grady Trauma Project, N = 795).

RESULTS: Composite score of stress and MS stress were strongly associated with heavy alcohol consumption, trauma experience, epigenetic age acceleration (EAA), and shortened DNA methylation-based telomere length in AUD. Together, MS stress and MS alcohol additively showed strong stepwise increases in EAA. Replication analyses showed robust association between MS stress and EAA in the Generation Scotland and Grady Trauma Project cohorts.

CONCLUSIONS: A methylation-derived score tracking stress exposure is associated with various stress-related phenotypes and EAA. Stress and alcohol have additive effects on aging, offering new insights into the pathophysiology of premature aging in AUD and, potentially, other aspects of gene dysregulation in this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Early online date16 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2022


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