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METHYL GROUPS

A SIMPLE CHEMICAL ENTITY KNOWN AS A METHYL GROUP MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH MOOD DISORDERS, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS

Methyl groups are simple chemical structures consisting of one carbon molecule and three hydrogens.  Johns Hopkins research by Kellie Tamashiro and colleagues has found that when the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, is high, a methyl group is not added to a gene where it should be, and this may give rise to mood disorders.

TAMASHIRO:  What we have found is that giving animals glucocorticoids, which would mimic the effects of stress, it’s a stress hormone, changes DNA methylation in the brain and in the blood and also correlates with changes in expression of this one gene called Fkbp5, which has been associated with conditions of psychiatric disorder.    :23

The human form of the gene Fkbp5 is known to be associated with depression and bipolar disorder.   The addition of a methyl group to this gene is one example of so-called epigenetic changes emerging as important mechanisms of health and disease.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


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