The role of epigenetics in perinatal depression: Aee there any candidate biomarkers?

Greta Silvia Carnevali, Massimiliano Buoli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Approximately 12% of all women will be affected by Perinatal Depression (PD), a condition associated with an increased risk for low birth weight, preterm birth, preeclampsia, maternal suicide and infanticide. The identification of biomarkers for PD could be useful for early identification and for the development of new treatments. Purpose of the present manuscript is to review the potential epigenetic biomarkers which were associated with PD. Methods: We performed a bibliographic research on PubMed, in order to find studies that proposed epigenetic biomarkers for PD. A total of 9 studies met our inclusion criteria. Results: Most available data are concordant in showing that women affected by PD have epigenetic alterations versus Healthy Controls (HC), especially with regard to Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis, oxytocin system, inflammatory response, neuronal differentiation and circadian rhythms. PD might be characterized by specific epigenetic changes; however, the available data are preliminary. Limitations: Many articles report results obtained on a limited sample size, in different cell types or tissues. Furthermore, sometimes the studies selected a restricted number of genes. As a result, most available data have not been replicated. Conclusions: Epigenetic changes of different biological systems could be involved in the etiology of PD. However, until now data are too scanty to draw definitive conclusions. Future studies with larger samples can confirm the results and hypothesis presented in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • epigenetics
  • oxytocin system
  • Perinatal Depression (PD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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