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Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

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Sexual minority (i.e., non-heterosexual) individuals experience poorer mental and physical health, accounted for in part by the additional burden of sexual minority stress occurring from being situated in a culture favoring heteronormativity. Informed by previous research, the purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between sexual minority stress and leukocyte gene expression related to inflammation, cancer, immune function, and cardiovascular function. Sexual minority men living with HIV who were on anti-retroviral medication, had viral load < 200 copies/mL, and had biologically confirmed, recent methamphetamine use completed minority stress measures and submitted blood samples for RNA sequencing on leukocytes. Differential gene expression and pathway analyses were conducted comparing those with clinically elevated minority stress (n = 18) and those who did not meet the clinical cutoff (n = 20), covarying reactive urine toxicology results for very recent stimulant use. In total, 90 differentially expressed genes and 138 gene set pathways evidencing 2-directional perturbation were observed at false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.10. Of these, 41 of the differentially expressed genes and 35 of the 2-directionally perturbed pathways were identified as functionally related to hypothesized mechanisms of inflammation, cancer, immune function, and cardiovascular function. The neuroactive-ligand receptor pathway (implicated in cancer development) was identified using signaling pathway impact analysis. Our results suggest several potential biological pathways for future work investigating the relationship between sexual minority stress and health.


Accepted version. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol. 70 (May 2018): 335-345. DOI. © 2018 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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