Basic Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2020. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Psychiatr. Dec 19, 2020; 10(12): 286-298
Published online Dec 19, 2020. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v10.i12.286
Identification of key genes involved in post-traumatic stress disorder: Evidence from bioinformatics analysis
Li Zeng, Wen-Lin Li, Zheng-Jun Li, Wen Li, Bin Zhang, Li-Li Yang, Yao-Yao Bian
Yao-Yao Bian, School of Nursing, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing 210023, Jiangsu Province, China
Li-Li Yang, Li Zeng, School of First Clinical Medicine, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing 210023, Jiangsu Province, China
Li-Li Yang, Wen-Lin Li, Li Zeng, Jingwen Library, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing 210023, Jiangsu Province, China
Bin Zhang, Digestive Department, Ningbo Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ningbo 315200, Zhejiang Province, China
Wen Li, School of Preclinical Medicine, Guizhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Guiyang 550025, Guizhou Province, China
Zheng-Jun Li, Management School, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AJ, United Kingdom
Zheng-Jun Li, College of Health Economics Management, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing 210023, Jiangsu Province, China
Author contributions: Bian YY, Yang LL, and Zhang B contributed equally to this study; Bian YY and Yang LL designed the study and wrote the manuscript; Zhang B, Li W, and Li ZJ conducted data analysis; Yang LL and Zhang B performed the statistical analysis; Li WL and Zeng L provided several suggestions for manuscript revision.
Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 81603529, 81673982, and 81704084; the Natural Science Foundation of the Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, No. 16KJB360002; the Advantages of the Nursing Discipline Project of Jiangsu Province, No. 2019YSHL005; China Scholarship Council, No. 201908320373; the Jiangsu Government Scholarship for Overseas Studies; and the Qing Lan Project, No. 014000773/2018-00376.
Institutional review board statement: This study was reviewed and approved by the Animal Experiment Ethics Committee of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine.
Institutional animal care and use committee statement: All experimental procedures followed the protocols approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Data sharing statement: Data of the studies are not publicly available but might be shared upon request from the corresponding author.
ARRIVE guidelines statement: The authors have read the ARRIVE guideline, and the manuscript was prepared and revised according to the ARRIVE guidelines.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Li Zeng, MD, PhD, Academic Research, School of First Clinical Medicine, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, No. 138 Xianlin Avenue, Qixia District, Nanjing 210023, Jiangsu Province, China.
Received: February 20, 2020
Peer-review started: February 20, 2020
First decision: September 21, 2020
Revised: October 6, 2020
Accepted: November 4, 2020
Article in press: November 4, 2020
Published online: December 19, 2020
Research background

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common trauma-related or stressor-related disorder characterized by a wide range of significant symptoms, e.g., avoidance, negative emotion, and hyperarousal. A variety of targeted genes and pathways may be associated with the occurrence and progression of PTSD.

Research motivation

The underlying mechanisms of PTSD are complicated and not entirely clear. We sought to uncover the key targets for the potential mechanisms associated with PTSD at the molecular level.

Research objectives

The main objective was to identify critical genes and key pathways associated with PTSD.

Research methods

Our study was conducted based on the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus database by using bioinformatics analysis. The differentially expressed genes were identified by using GEO2R. Gene functional annotation and pathway enrichment were performed using the Database for Annotation, Visualization, and Integrated Discovery. The gene-pathway network was mapped with Cytoscape software. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis was applied for validation, and text mining by Coremine Medical was used to confirm the connections among genes and pathways.

Research results

A total of 358 upregulated genes and 615 downregulated genes were obtained. These altered genes were significantly enriched in PTSD-related pathways, such as MAPK, Ras, and ErbB signaling pathways. The co-expression pattern of these enriched pathways with their genes was constructed. And a group of hub genes was obtained from the gene-pathway network. qRT-PCR indicated that the hub genes were differentially expressed. Besides, text mining showed that these genes were linearly connected with the associated pathways, which suggested that these genes might play crucial roles in the signal pathway conduction in the onset and development of PTSD.

Research conclusions

The results of this study have contributed to the identification of a panel of candidate genes and important pathways, which may serve as potential biomarkers involved in the pathogenesis of PTSD.

Research perspectives

Our findings may provide a significant step forward in understanding the pathogenesis of PTSD at the molecular level.