TGI Friday! Our weekly round-up of recently published research abstracts | 21 April 2017

April 21, 2017

From BMC Medical Genomics (open access), 23 February 2017.

Epigenetic modifications and glucocorticoid sensitivity in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)

Wilfred C. de Vega(1,2), Santiago Herrera(1), Suzanne D. Vernon(3) and Patrick O. McGowan(1, 2, 4, 5)
1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto
2. Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto
3. Solve ME/CFS Initiative
4. Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.
5. Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto



Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a debilitating idiopathic disease characterized by unexplained fatigue that fails to resolve with sufficient rest. Diagnosis is based on a list of symptoms and exclusion of other fatigue-related health conditions. Despite a heterogeneous patient population, immune and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function differences, such as enhanced negative feedback to glucocorticoids, are recurring findings in ME/CFS studies. Epigenetic modifications, such as CpG methylation, are known to regulate long-term phenotypic differences and previous work by our group found DNA methylome differences in ME/CFS, however the relationship between DNA methylome modifications, clinical and functional characteristics associated with ME/CFS has not been examined.


We examined the DNA methylome in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of a larger cohort of female ME/CFS patients using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadChip Array. In parallel to the DNA methylome analysis, we investigated in vitro glucocorticoid sensitivity differences by stimulating PBMCs with phytohaemagglutinin and suppressed growth with dexamethasone. We explored DNA methylation differences using bisulfite pyrosequencing and statistical permutation. Linear regression was implemented to discover epigenomic regions associated with self-reported quality of life and network analysis of gene ontology terms to biologically contextualize results.


We detected 12,608 differentially methylated sites between ME/CFS patients and healthy controls predominantly localized to cellular metabolism genes, some of which were also related to self-reported quality of life health scores. Among ME/CFS patients, glucocorticoid sensitivity was associated with differential methylation at 13 loci.


Our results indicate DNA methylation modifications in cellular metabolism in ME/CFS despite a heterogeneous patient population, implicating these processes in immune and HPA axis dysfunction in ME/CFS. Modifications to epigenetic loci associated with differences in glucocorticoid sensitivity may be important as biomarkers for future clinical testing. Overall, these findings align with recent ME/CFS work that point towards impairment in cellular energy production in this patient population.

From the Journal of Investigative Medicine, 6 April 2017.

CNS findings in chronic fatigue syndrome and a neuropathological case report

Kimberly Ferrero(1), Mitchell Silver(1), Alan Cocchetto(2), Eliezer Masliah(3), Dianne Langford(1)
1. Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
2. State University of New York at Alfred, Engineering Technologies, Alfred, New York, USA
3. University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized as a persistent, debilitating complex disorder of unknown etiology, whereby patients suffer from extreme fatigue, which often presents with symptoms that include chronic pain, depression, weakness, mood disturbances, and neuropsychological impairment. In this mini review and case report, we address central nervous system (CNS) involvement of CFS and present neuropathological autopsy findings from a patient who died with a prior diagnosis of CFS.

Among the most remarkable pathological features of the case are focal areas of white matter loss, neurite beading, and neuritic pathology of axons in the white matter with axonal spheroids. Atypical neurons displaying aberrant sprouting processes in response to injury are observed throughout cortical gray and white matter. Abundant amyloid deposits identical to AD plaques with accompanying intracellular granular structures are observed as well. Neurofibrillary tangles are also present in the white matter of the frontal cortex, thalamus and basal ganglia.

Taken together, these neuropathological findings warrant further studies into CNS disease associated with CFS.

From Clinical Neurophysiology, 12 April 2017.

Chronic fatigue syndrome and the immune system: Where are we now?

Fane Kojo Fosu Mensah(a) , Amolak Singh Bansal(b), Brian Ford(b), Geraldine Cambridge (a)
a) Department of Rheumatology Research, Division of Medicine, University College of London, Rayne Building, 5, University Street, WC1E 6JF London, United Kingdom
b) Department of Immunology, Epsom and St-Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, London, United Kingdom


Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is characterised by multiple symptoms including fatigue, headaches and cognitive impairment, which have a significantly adverse effect on the normal functioning and well-being of the individual. These symptoms are often triggered or worsened following physical or mental exertion.

ME/CFS has long been thought of as having a significant immunological component, but reports describing changes in immune function are often inconsistent between study groups. Although the wide range of physical, neurocognitive and autonomic symptoms reported have seriously hampered attempts to understand pathophysiological pathways, investment in biomedical research in ME/CFS is finally increasing with a number of novel and promising investigations being published.

The onset of ME/CFS may often be linked to (viral) infections which would be consistent with a variety of alterations in natural killer (NK) cell function as described by a number of different groups. Consistency in cytokine data has been lacking so far, although recently more sophisticated approaches have led to more robust data from large patient cohorts.

New hope has also been given to sufferers with the possibility that therapies that deplete B cells can result in clinical improvement. To understand the pathogenic mechanism in this complex condition, it is important to consider repeated analysis in different cohorts. In this review, we will discuss the potential of different components of the immune system to be involved in the pathogenesis of ME/CFS.

Shopping Basket