Apolipoprotein E: the resilience gene

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The apolipoprotein E (apoE) gene has been implicated in various conditions, most notably Alzheimer’s disease and coronary artery disease. A predisposing role of the apoE4 isoform and a protective role of apoE2 isoform in those diseases have been documented. Here we investigated the role of apoE in resilience to trauma. Three hundred and forty-three US veterans were genotyped for apoE and were assessed for their lifetime trauma exposure (trauma score, T) and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (PCL). The ratio PCL/T indicates sensitivity to trauma; hence, its inverse indicates resilience, R, to trauma. We found a significantly higher resilience in participants with apoE genotype containing the E2 allele (E2/2, E2/3) as compared to participants with the E4 allele (E4/4, E4/3). In addition, when the categorical apoE genotype was reexpressed as the number of cysteine residues per apoE mole (CysR/mole), a highly significant positive association was found between resilience and CysR/mole, such that resilience was systematically higher as the number of CysR/mole increased, from zero CysR/mole in E4/4 to four CysR/mole in E2/2. These findings demonstrate the protective role of the CysR/mole apoE in resilience to trauma: the more CysR/mole, the higher the resilience. Thus, they are in accord with other findings pointing to a generally protective role of increasing number of CysR/mole (from E4/4 to E2/2) in other diseases. However, unlike other conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease and coronary artery disease), resilience to trauma is not a disease but an adaptive response to trauma. Therefore, the effects of apoE seem to be more pervasive along the CysR/mole continuum, most probably reflecting underlying effects on brain synchronicity and its variability that we have documented previously (Leuthold et al., Exp Brain Res 226:525–536, 2013).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1853-1859
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • ApoE
  • Resilience
  • Trauma

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