Individuals exposed to persistent neighborhood violence are at increased risk for developing mental and physical health problems across the lifespan. The biological mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not well understood. Thus, we examined the relationship between children's exposure to neighborhood violence and inflammatory activity, a process involved in the pathogenesis of multiple health problems. 236 children from the Chicago area participated in a two-year longitudinal study (mean age at baseline, 13.9 years; 67% female; 39% White, 34% Black, 33% Hispanic). Neighborhood violence was measured as the homicide frequency in a child's Census block group in the five years before study entry. Fasting blood was drawn at study entry and two years later (in eighth and tenth grade). The blood was used to quantify protein biomarkers of systemic inflammatory activity and perform genome-wide expression profiling of isolated monocytes. Neighborhood violence was associated with higher systemic inflammatory activity at both assessments. It also was associated with a monocyte transcriptional profile indicative of increased signaling along the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) and activator protein 1 (AP-1) control pathways, which are key orchestrators of pro-inflammatory effector functions. Neighborhood violence also was associated with transcriptional indications of higher beta-adrenergic and lower glucocorticoid signaling, which could function as neuroendocrine conduits linking threatening experiences with inflammatory activity. Neighborhood violence was not associated with two-year changes in protein biomarkers, although it did presage a transcriptional profile indicative of increasing AP-1 and declining glucocorticoid signaling over follow-up. Collectively, these observations highlight cellular and molecular pathways that could underlie health risks associated with neighborhood violence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience