CARMHA Research Seminars

Prenatal Stress Exposure Induces Long-Lasting Epigenetic Marks on our Genes

Presenter: Dr. Nadine Provençal
: October 11, 2019
: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
: SFU Harbour Centre, Room 2050


Exposure to early life stress (ELS) is a well-known major risk factor for developing psychiatric and behavioural disorders later in life. Evidence indicates that exposure to ELS can lead to long-term changes in several biological systems but our understanding of the mechanisms involved is limited. One proposed mechanism is that excessive glucocorticoids (GCs) release after ELS exposure induces long-lasting epigenetic alterations in important regulatory genes. Dr. Provencal will present recent evidences from her research using hippocampal progenitor cells as a model to study the impact of prenatal stress on our genes as well as cohort of newborns exposed to prenatal stress, which support this hypothesis. Overall her work suggests that early GCs exposure primes future gene responses via epigenetic marks. Her findings using an in vitro model may translate to human pregnancy where epigenetic marks could potentially serve as a biomarker for prenatal stress exposure and contribute to the increased risk for developing a psychopathology observed with prenatal GC exposure.

Brief Bio(s)

Dr. Provençal completed her Ph.D. in epigenetics of early life adversity and aggression at McGill University in collaboration with the Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial Maladjustment in 2013. She received a research fellowship from the Canadian Institute of Health Research to complete a postdoctoral training at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry (MPIP) in Germany. At the MPIP, she pursued her research on the epigenetic mechanisms involved in the response to stress in the context of psychiatric disorders. In 2014, she was awarded the Richard Todd Award from the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics for her research contribution to the genetics of child psychiatry. Dr. Provencal joined the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University as Assistant Professor in March 2017 and heads the EpiGenOmics of Developmental Trajectories (EGODT) laboratory. She is also an Investigator at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.