Year: 2015 Source: Biological Psychiatry.(2015). Online 3 September 2015. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.08.032 SIEC No: 20150472

The effects of exposure to childhood trauma (CT) may be transmitted across generations; however, the time period(s) and mechanism(s) have yet to be clarified. We address the hypothesis that intergenerational transmission may begin during intrauterine life via the effect of maternal CT exposure on placental-fetal stress physiology, specifically placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH). The study was conducted in a sociodemographically diverse cohort of 295 pregnant women. CT exposure was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Placental CRH concentrations were quantified in maternal blood collected serially over the course of gestation. Linear mixed effects and Bayesian piece-wise linear models were employed to test hypothesized relationships. Maternal CT exposure (CT+) was significantly associated with pCRH production. Compared with nonexposed women, CT+ was associated with an almost 25% increase in pCRH toward the end of gestation, and the pCRH trajectory of CT+ women exhibited an approximately twofold steeper increase after the pCRH inflection point at 19 weeks gestation. To the best of our knowledge, this finding represents the first report linking maternal CT exposure with placental-fetal stress physiology, thus identifying a potential novel biological pathway of intergenerational transmission that may operate as early as during intrauterine life.