Social stress up-regulates inflammatory gene expression in the leukocyte transcriptome via β-adrenergic induction of myelopoiesis

Nicole D. Powell, Erica K. Sloan, Michael T. Bailey, Jesusa M.G. Arevalo, Gregory E. Miller, Edith Chen, Michael S. Kobor, Brenda F. Reader, John F. Sheridan, Steven W. Cole*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

313 Scopus citations


Across a variety of adverse life circumstances, such as social isolation and low socioeconomic status, mammalian immune cells have been found to show a conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) involving increased expression of proinflammatory genes. The present study examineswhether such effects might stem in part from the selective up-regulation of a subpopulation of immature proinflammatory monocytes (Ly-6chigh in mice, CD16? in humans) within the circulating leukocyte pool. Transcriptome representation analyses showed relative expansion of the immature proinflammatory monocyte transcriptome in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from people subject to chronic social stress (low socioeconomic status) and mice subject to repeated social defeat. Cellular dissection of the mouse peripheral blood mononuclear cell transcriptome confirmed these results, and promoter-based bioinformatic analyses indicated increased activity of transcription factors involved in early myeloid lineage differentiation and proinflammatory effector function (PU.1, NF-κB, EGR1, MZF1, NRF2). Analysis of bone marrow hematopoiesis confirmed increased myelopoietic output of Ly-6chigh monocytes and Ly-6cintermediate granulocytes in mice subject to repeated social defeat, and these effects were blocked by pharmacologic antagonists of β-adrenoreceptors and the myelopoietic growth factor GM-CSF. These results suggest that sympathetic nervous system-induced up-regulation of myelopoiesis mediates the proinflammatory component of the leukocyte CTRA dynamic and may contribute to the increased risk of inflammation-related disease associated with adverse social conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16574-16579
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 8 2013


  • Immunology
  • Social genomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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