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Prelog, Martina; Hilligardt, Deborah; Schmidt, Christian A.; Przybylski, Grzegorz K.; Leierer, Johannes; Almanzar, Giovanni; El Hajj, Nady; Lesch, Klaus-Peter; Arolt, Volker; Zwanzger, Peter; Haaf, Thomas; Domschke, Katharina (2016): Hypermethylation of FOXP3 Promoter and Premature Aging of the Immune System in Female Patients with Panic Disorder?
In: PLOS ONE 11(6), e0157930


Immunological abnormalities associated with pathological conditions, such as higher infection rates, inflammatory diseases, cancer or cardiovascular events are common in patients with panic disorder. In the present study, T cell receptor excision circles (TRECs), Fork-head-Box-Protein P3 gene (FOXP3) methylation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and relative telomere lengths (RTLs) were investigated in a total and subsamples of 131 patients with panic disorder as compared to 131 age-and sex-matched healthy controls in order to test for a potential dysfunction and premature aging of the immune system in anxiety disorders. Significantly lower TRECs (p = 0.004) as well as significant hypermethylation of the FOXP3 promoter region (p = 0.005) were observed in female (but not in male) patients with panic disorder as compared to healthy controls. No difference in relative telomere length was discerned between patients and controls, but significantly shorter telomeres in females, smokers and older persons within the patient group. The presently observed reduced TRECs in panic disorder patients and FOXP3 hypermethylation in female patients with panic disorder potentially reflect impaired thymus and immunosuppressive Treg function, which might partly account for the known increased morbidity and mortality of anxiety disorders conferred by e.g. cancer and cardiovascular disorders.