Affective reactivity to daily stressors and immune cell gene expression in the MIDUS study

Abner T. Apsley, Sun Ah Lee, Aarti C. Bhat, Jonathan Rush, David M. Almeida, Steven W. Cole, Idan Shalev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affective reactivity to stress is a person-level measurement of how well an individual copes with daily stressors. A common method of measuring affective reactivity entails the estimation of within-person differences of either positive or negative affect on days with and without stressors present. Individuals more reactive to common stressors, as evidenced by affective reactivity measurements, have been shown to have increased levels of circulating pro-inflammatory markers. While affective reactivity has previously been associated with inflammatory markers, the upstream mechanistic links underlying these associations are unknown. Using data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Refresher study (N = 195; 52% female; 84% white), we quantified daily stress processes over 10 days and determined individuals’ positive and negative affective reactivities to stressors. We then examined affective reactivity association with peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) gene expression of the immune-related conserved transcriptional response to adversity. Results indicated that individuals with a greater decrease in positive affect to daily stressors exhibited heightened PBMC JUNB expression after Bonferroni corrections (p-adjusted < 0.05). JUNB encodes a protein that acts as a transcription factor which regulates many aspects of the immune response, including inflammation and cell proliferation. Due to its critical role in the activation of macrophages and maintenance of CD4+ T-cells during inflammation, JUNB may serve as a potential upstream mechanistic target for future studies of the connection between affective reactivity and inflammatory processes. Overall, our findings provide evidence that affective reactivity to stress is associated with levels of immune cell gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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