Intergenerational effects of maternal post-traumatic stress disorder on offspring epigenetic patterns and cortisol levels

Line Hjort, Feride Rushiti, Shr-Jie Wang, Peter Fransquet, Sebahate P Krasniqi, Selvi I Çarkaxhiu, Dafina Arifaj, Vjosa Devaja Xhemaili, Mimoza Salihu, Nazmie A Leku, Joanne Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To investigate the association between maternal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy and offspring DNA methylation and cortisol levels. Materials & methods: Blood genome-wide DNA methylation and cortisol was measured in the youngest child of 117 women who experienced sexual violence/torture during the Kosovo war. Results: Seventy-two percent of women had PTSD symptoms during pregnancy. Their children had higher cortisol levels and differential methylation at candidate genes (NR3C1, HTR3A and BNDF). No methylation differences reached epigenome-wide corrected significance levels. Conclusion: Identifying the biological processes whereby the negative effects of trauma are passed across generations and defining groups at high risk is a key step to breaking the intergenerational transmission of the effects of mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-980
Number of pages14
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • cortisol
  • DNA methylation
  • epigenetics
  • intergenerational
  • maternal stress
  • offspring
  • PTSD

Cite this