Epigenetic Pain Regulation

Our genetic code is determined at conception and remains constant throughout life, with few exceptions. It serves as the framework for our molecular elements and explains individual chemical and structural machinery. Though elegant, this science of classical genetics is an incomplete description of organism uniqueness because it fails to explain how environmental interactions can direct changes that mold individuality. This void is filled by epigenetics. Epigenetics refers to a newly defined system that orchestrates changes in DNA and RNA function while maintaining the integrity of the genetic code. The nervous system serves as the platform for epigenetic research because of its remarkable plasticity, especially in learning and memory. Here, we examine some of the mechanisms underlying neural epigenetics and link them to basic science of pain. For example, chronic pain is considered to be a defective product of the acute nociceptive pathways that has been altered by environmental and behavioral cues. However, these alterations can be reversible, which suggests temporary genomic modification. We suggest the novel concept that spontaneous, environmental and behavioral factors can influence the evolution of chronic pain by epigenetically determined processes. There is no sensation more devastating to a living organism than pain. Environmental manipulation of neuronal processing is fundamental for understanding nociception. We present the emerging concept that environmentally mediated factors are inextricably linked to genetic regulation via chromatin and DNA remodeling.

We suggest that the epigenetic control of the nociceptive system is an elegant model to describe how the environment and behavior affects pain perception. Plasticity and memory formation of the pain neuronal network is executed by changes on subnuclear levels and subsequently modulates the genome.


Sayed Emal Wahezi and Jeffrey Algra

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