The endocannabinoid signaling system (ECSS) regulates fear and anxiety. While ECSS hypoactivity can contribute to symptoms of established post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the role of the ECSS in PTSD development following trauma is unknown. A prospective, longitudinal cohort study of 170 individuals (47% non-Hispanic Caucasian and 70% male) treated at a level 1 trauma center for traumatic injury was carried out. PTSD symptom assessments and blood were obtained during hospitalization and at follow-up (6–8 months post injury). Serum concentrations of the endocannabinoids N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) were determined at both time points and selected genetic polymorphisms in endocannabinoid genes, including rs324420 in fatty acid amide hydrolase, were assessed. For the entire sample, serum concentrations of AEA at hospitalization were significantly higher in those diagnosed with PTSD at follow-up (p = 0.030). Serum concentrations of 2-AG were significantly, positively correlated with PTSD symptom severity at follow-up only in minorities (p = 0.014). Minority participants (mostly Black/African American) also demonstrated significant, negative correlations between serum AEA concentrations and PTSD symptom severity both measured at hospitalization (p = 0.015). The A/A genotype at rs324420 was associated with significantly higher PTSD symptom severity (p = 0.025) and occurred exclusively in the Black participants. Collectively, these results are contrary to our hypothesis and find positive associations between circulating endocannabinoids and risk for PTSD. Minority status is an important modulator of the association between endocannabinoids and risk for PTSD, suggesting that the ECSS contributes to risk most significantly in these individuals and the contextual factors related to these findings should be further explored.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry