Although metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript (MALAT)-1 is known to be consistently upregulated in several epithelial malignancies, little is known about its function or regulation. We therefore examined the relationship between MALAT-1 expression and candidate modulators such as DNA tumor virus oncoproteins human papillomavirus (HPV)-16 E6 and E7, BK virus T antigen (BKVTAg), mouse polyoma virus middle T antigen (MPVmTAg) and tumor suppressor genes p53 and pRb. Using suppressive subtractive hybridization (SSH) and real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays, MALAT-1 was shown to be increased in viral oncongene-expressing salivary gland biopsies from humans and mice. The results also indicated that MALAT-1 transcripts and promoter activity were increased in vitro when viral oncongene-expressing plasmids were introduced into different cell types. These same viral oncogenes in addition to increasing MALAT-1 transcription have also been shown to inhibit p53 and/or pRb function. In p53 mutant or inactive cell lines MALAT-1 was also shown to be highly upregulated. We hypothesize that there is a correlation between MALAT-1 over-expression and p53 deregulation. In conclusion, we show that disruption of p53, by both polyoma and papilloma oncoproteins appear to play an important role in the up-regulation of MALAT-1. MALAT-1 might therefore represent a biomarker for p53 deregulation within malignancies.
p53; MALAT-1; transcription; BK virus; polyoma virus; papillomavirus; HPV
The multiple bodily pain conditions in temporomandibular disorders (TMD) have been associated with generalized alterations in pain processing. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the presence of widespread body palpation tenderness (WPT) and the likelihood of multiple comorbid pain conditions in TMD patients and controls. This case-control study was conducted in 76 TMD subjects with WPT, 83 TMD subjects without WPT, and 181 non-TMD matched control subjects. The study population was also characterized for clinical pain, experimental pain sensitivity, and related psychological phenotypes. Results showed that (1) TMD subjects reported an average of 1.7 comorbid pain conditions compared to 0.3 reported by the control subjects (p<0.001); (2) Compared to control subjects, the odds ratio (OR) for multiple comorbid pain conditions is higher for TMD subjects with WPT [OR 8.4 (95% CI 3.1–22.8) for TMD with WPT versus OR 3.3 (95% CI 1.3–8.4) for TMD without WPT]; (3) TMD subjects with WPT presented with reduced pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) in both cranial and extra-cranial regions compared to TMD subjects without WPT; and (4) TMD subjects with WPT reported increased somatic symptoms. These findings suggest that pain assessment outside of the orofacial region may prove valuable for the classification, diagnosis, and management of TMD patients.
TMD; temporomandibular disorders; palpation tenderness; multiple pain conditions; comorbid
The enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes catecholamine neurotransmitters involved in a number of physiological functions including pain perception. Both human and mouse COMT genes possess functional polymorphisms contributing to inter-individual variability in pain phenotypes such as sensitivity to noxious stimuli, severity of clinical pain and response to pain treatment. In this study, we found that the effects of Comt functional variation in mice are modality-specific. Spontaneous inflammatory nociception and thermal nociception behaviors were correlated the most with the presence of the B2 SINE transposon insertion residing in the 3’UTR mRNA region. Similarly, in humans, COMT functional haplotypes were associated with thermal pain perception and with capsaicin-induced pain. Furthermore, COMT genetic variations contributed to pain behaviors in mice and pain ratings in humans in a sex-specific manner. The ancestral Comt variant, without a B2 SINE insertion, was more strongly associated with sensitivity to capsaicin in female versus male mice. In humans, the haplotype coding for low COMT activity increased capsaicin-induced pain perception in women, but not men. These findings reemphasize the fundamental contribution of COMT to pain processes, and provide a fine-grained resolution of this contribution at the genetic level that can be used to guide future studies in the area of pain genetics.
Increasing evidence suggests that stress system activation after burn injury may contribute to burn-related pain. If this is the case, then genetic variations influencing the function of important stress system components, such as the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), may predict pain severity after thermal burn injury.
We evaluated the association between COMT genotype and pain intensity in 57 individuals hospitalized after thermal burn injury. Consenting participants at four burn centers were genotyped and completed daily 0-10 numeric rating scale pain assessments on two consecutive days including evaluation of waking, least, and worst pain. The association between COMT genotype and individual pain outcomes was calculated using a linear mixed model adjusting for sociodemographic and burn injury characteristics.
Overall pain (combination of least, worst, and waking pain scores) was significantly higher in patients with a COMT pain vulnerable genotype (6.3 (.4) vs. 5.4 (.4), p=.037). Individuals with a COMT pain vulnerable genotype also had significantly higher “least pain” scores (3.8 (.5) vs. 2.6 (.4), p=.017) and significantly higher pain on awakening (6.8 (.5) vs. 5.3 (.4), p=.004). Differences in worst pain according to genotype group were not significant. COMT pain vulnerable genotype was a stronger predictor of overall pain severity than burn size, burn depth, or time from admission to pain interview assessment.
These findings suggest that genetic factors influencing stress system function may have an important influence on pain severity after burn injury. Further studies of genetic predictors of pain after burn injury are needed.
catechol-O-methyltransferase; burn; pain; stress
This paper describes methods used in the project “Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment” (OPPERA) and evaluates socio-demographic characteristics associated with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) in the OPPERA case-control study. Representativeness was investigated by comparing socio-demographic profiles of OPPERA participants with population census profiles of counties near study sites and by comparing age- and gender-associations with TMD in OPPERA and the 2007-09 US National Health Interview Survey. Volunteers aged 18-44 years were recruited at four US study sites: 3,263 people without TMD were enrolled into the prospective cohort study; 1,633 of them were selected as controls for the baseline case-control study. Cases were 185 volunteers with examiner-classified TMD. Distributions of some demographic characteristics among OPPERA participants differed from census profiles, although there was less difference in socio-economic profiles. Odds of TMD was associated with greater age in this 18-44 year range; females had three times the odds of TMD as males; and relative to non-Hispanic-Whites, other racial groups had one-fifth the odds of TMD. Age- and gender-associations with chronic TMD were strikingly similar to associations observed in the US population. Assessments of representativeness in this demographically diverse group of community volunteers suggest that OPPERA case-control findings have good internal validity.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders; Case-Control Studies; Demography; Socioeconomic Factors; Population Characteristics
Chronic pain is highly variable between individuals, as is the response to analgesics. Although much of the variability in chronic pain and analgesic response is heritable, an understanding of the genetic determinants underlying this variability is rudimentary1. Here we show that variation within the coding sequence of the gene encoding the P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) affects chronic pain sensitivity in both mice and humans. P2X7Rs, which are members of the family of ionotropic ATP-gated receptors, have two distinct modes of function: they can function through their intrinsic cationic channel or by forming nonselective pores that are permeable to molecules with a mass of up to 900 Da2,3. Using genome-wide linkage analyses, we discovered an association between nerve-injury–induced pain behavior (mechanical allodynia) and the P451L mutation of the mouse P2rx7 gene, such that mice in which P2X7Rs have impaired pore formation as a result of this mutation showed less allodynia than mice with the pore-forming P2rx7 allele. Administration of a peptide corresponding to the P2X7R C-terminal domain, which blocked pore formation but not cation channel activity, selectively reduced nerve injury and inflammatory allodynia only in mice with the pore-forming P2rx7 allele. Moreover, in two independent human chronic pain cohorts, a cohort with pain after mastectomy and a cohort with osteoarthritis, we observed a genetic association between lower pain intensity and the hypofunctional His270 (rs7958311) allele of P2RX7. Our findings suggest that selectively targeting P2X7R pore formation may be a new strategy for individualizing the treatment of chronic pain.
Fibromyalgia (FM) represents a complex disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness and frequently accompanied by additional somatic and cognitive/affective symptoms. Genetic risk factors are known to contribute to the etiology of the syndrome, but few specific genetic variants have been identified to date and still require replication. In this study, a large scale candidate gene approach was used to examine over 350 genes for association with FM.
Four hundred ninety-six FM patients were included in the study as cases with a total of 348 chronic pain-free controls. Genotyping was performed using a dedicated gene array chip, the Pain Research Panel, which assays variants characterizing over 350 genes known to be involved in biological pathways relevant to nociception, inflammation, and mood. Association testing was performed using logistic regression.
Significant differences in allele frequencies between cases and controls were observed for three genes: GABRB3 (rs4906902, p = 3.65×10−6), TAAR1 (rs8192619, p = 1.11×10−5) and GBP1 (rs7911, p = 1.06×10−4). These three genes, and seven other genes with suggestive evidence for association, were examined in a second, independent cohort of FM patients and controls genotyped using the Perlegen 600K platform. Evidence of association in the replication cohort was observed for TAAR1, RGS4, CNR1, and GRIA4 genes.
Variation in these genes may serve as a basis for development of new diagnostic approaches, and these genes’ products may contribute to the pathophysiology of FM and represent potential targets for therapeutic action.
Evidence suggests that the effect of cigarette smoking on chronic pain is stronger in younger than older adults. This case control study investigated whether age modified an effect of smoking on temporomandibular disorder (TMD) in 299 females aged 18–60 years. It also investigated the extent to which this relationship was explained by psychological profile, inflammatory response and allergy. Cases were defined using the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders based on clinical examination. Psychological profile was evaluated using standardized instruments. Inflammatory response was evaluated with 11 cytokines isolated in plasma. History of allergy conditions was self-reported. Odds ratios (OR) for the effect of smoking were calculated using binary logistic regression. Stratified analyses and the likelihood ratio test examined effect modification by smoking. Compared to non-smokers, ever smokers aged <30 years had higher odds of TMD (OR =4.14, 95% CI: 1.57, 11.35) than older adults (OR =1.23, 95% CI: 0.55, 2.78) (P (effect modification) =0.038). Adjustment for psychological profile, cytokines and history of allergy-like conditions attenuated the effect by 45% to statistical non-significance. The main finding was reproduced with secondary analyses of two nationally-representative surveys of adults conducted in the U.S. and Australia.
Epidemiology; case-control study; temporomandibular joint disorder; psychological stress; allergy and hypersensitivity, cytokines
The ability to perceive noxious stimuli is critical for an animal's survival in the face of environmental danger, and thus pain perception is likely to be under stringent evolutionary pressure. Using a neuronal-specific RNAi knock-down strategy in adult Drosophila, we recently completed a genome-wide functional annotation of heat nociception that allowed us to identify α2δ3 as a novel pain gene. Here we report construction of an evolutionary-conserved, system-level, global molecular pain network map. Our systems map is markedly enriched for multiple genes associated with human pain and predicts a plethora of novel candidate pain pathways. One central node of this pain network is phospholipid signaling, which has been implicated before in pain processing. To further investigate the role of phospholipid signaling in mammalian heat pain perception, we analysed the phenotype of PIP5Kα and PI3Kγ mutant mice. Intriguingly, both of these mice exhibit pronounced hypersensitivity to noxious heat and capsaicin-induced pain, which directly mapped through PI3Kγ kinase-dead knock-in mice to PI3Kγ lipid kinase activity. Using single primary sensory neuron recording, PI3Kγ function was mechanistically linked to a negative regulation of TRPV1 channel transduction. Our data provide a systems map for heat nociception and reinforces the extraordinary conservation of molecular mechanisms of nociception across different species.
Nociception is the perception of noxious, potentially damaging stimuli; and this pain or its equivalent behavioral readout is evolutionarily conserved from fruit flies to humans. Using genetic techniques in the fruit fly, we have been able to evaluate the potential functional contribution of every gene in the fruit fly genome for a role in avoidance of high noxious temperatures (heat pain-like responses). Using this functional genomics data set, we have developed a conserved network map of heat pain/nociception that predicts numerous conserved genes and pathways as novel pain pathways, including phospholipid signaling. Studies in multiple mutant mice confirmed a role for lipid signaling in pain perception, and more specifically we identify the critical lipid kinase (PI3Kγ) as a negative regulator of TRPV1 (receptor for noxious heat and capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers) signaling. This finding shows that our fly-based genetic pain network map is a valuable tool for the discovery of novel “nociception genes” in mammals.
For reasons unknown, temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can manifest as localized pain or in conjunction with widespread pain. We evaluated relationships between cytokines and TMD without or with widespread palpation tenderness (TMD−WPT or TMD+WPT, respectively), at protein, transcription factory activity, and gene levels. Additionally, we evaluated the relationship between cytokines and intermediate phenotypes characteristic of TMD and WPT. In a case-control study of 344 females, blood samples were analyzed for levels of 22 cytokines and activity of 48 transcription factors. Intermediate phenotypes were measured by quantitative sensory testing and questionnaires asking about pain, health, and psychological status. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) coding cytokines and transcription factors were genotyped. TMD−WPT cases had elevated protein levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine MCP-1 and anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-1ra, whereas TMD+WPT cases had elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-8. MCP-1, IL-1ra, and IL-8 were differentially associated with experimental pain, self-rated pain, self-rated health, and psychological phenotypes. TMD−WPT and TMD+WPT cases had inhibited transcription activity of the anti-inflammatory cytokine TGFβ1. Interactions were observed between TGFβ1 and IL-8 SNPs: an additional copy of the TGFβ1 rs2241719 minor T allele was associated with twice the odds of TMD+WPT among individuals homozygous for the IL-8 rs4073 major A allele and half the odds of TMD+WPT among individuals heterozygous for rs4073. These results demonstrate how pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines contribute to the pathophysiology of TMD and WPT in genetically-susceptible people. Furthermore, they identify MCP-1, IL-1ra, IL-8, and TGFβ1 as potential diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for pain in patients with TMD.
Epistasis; Gene polymorphism; Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra); Interleukin-8 (IL-8); Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1); Transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1)
Opioid drugs are among the most commonly used and effective human analgesics. To date, the clinical benefits of opioid analgesics have not been fully realized due to substantial individual variations in the responses to opioids, insufficient drug dosing, and a high rate (up to 66%) of adverse events. As such, there is a substantial need to identify the genetic and molecular biological mechanisms that mediate individual responses to opioid therapy. Recent discoveries show that genetic variations in the μ-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene locus play an essential role in inter-individual responses. The majority of genetic association studies have focused on the A118G polymorphism, which codes for a non-synonymous change in OPRM1 exon 1. In addition to the A118G polymorphism, another functional SNP (rs563649), which is located within an alternatively-spliced OPRM1 isoform (MOR-1K), has been identified. The MOR-1k isoform codes for 6TM OPRM1 isoforms that display excitatory rather than the inhibitory cellular effects, which are characteristic of the canonical 7TM isoforms. Thus, stimulation of the 6TM isoforms may engage the molecular mechanisms mediating opioid-dependent hyperalgesia, tolerance and dependence. Future clinical and basic studies that seek to identify the functional genetic variants within OPRM1 locus, and associated molecular mechanisms, will result in a better understanding of individual responses to opioid therapy and ultimately to the development new pharmacotherapeutics and diagnostic tools.
analgesic response to opioids; mu-opioid receptor (MOR); opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) structure; genetic association study; 6 transmembrane (6TM) MOR
Opioids that stimulate the μ-opioid receptor (MOR1) are the most frequently prescribed and effective analgesics. Here we present a structural model of MOR1. Molecular dynamics simulations show a ligand-dependent increase in the conformational flexibility of the third intracellular loop that couples with the G-protein complex. These simulations likewise identified residues that form frequent contacts with ligands. We validated the binding residues using site-directed mutagenesis coupled with radioligand binding and functional assays. The model was used to blindly screen a library of ~1.2 million compounds. From the thirty-four compounds predicted to be strong binders, the top three candidates were examined using biochemical assays. One compound showed high efficacy and potency. Post hoc testing revealed this compound to be nalmefene, a potent clinically used antagonist, thus further validating the model. In summary, the MOR1 model provides a tool for elucidating the structural mechanism of ligand-initiated cell signaling and screening for novel analgesics.
Several case-control studies have been conducted that examine the association between autonomic variables and persistent pain conditions; however, there is a surprising dearth of published studies in this area that have focused on temporomandibular disorders (TMD). The current study presents autonomic findings from the baseline case-control study of the OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment) cooperative agreement. Measures of arterial blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and indirect measures of baroreflex sensitivity were assessed at rest and in response to a physical (orthostatic) and psychological (Stroop) stressors in 1633 TMD-free controls and 185 TMD cases. In bivariate and demographically adjusted analyses, greater odds of TMD case status were associated with elevated heart rates, reduced heart rate variability, and reduced surrogate measures of baroreflex sensitivity across all experimental procedures. Principal component analysis was undertaken to identify latent constructs revealing five components. These findings provide evidence of associations between autonomic factors and TMD. Future prospective analyses in the OPPERA cohort will determine if the presence of these autonomic factors predicts increased risk for developing new onset TMD.
Temporomandibular Disorders; Heart Rate Variability; Blood Pressure; Heart Rate; Baroreflex Sensitivity; Stroop; Orthostatic
Genetic factors play a role in the etiology of persistent pain conditions, putatively by modulating underlying processes such as nociceptive sensitivity, psychological well-being, inflammation, and autonomic response. However, to date, only a few genes have been associated with temporomandibular disorders (TMD). This study evaluated 358 genes involved in pain processes, comparing allelic frequencies between 166 cases with chronic TMD and 1442 controls enrolled in the OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment) study cooperative agreement. To enhance statistical power, 182 TMD cases and 170 controls from a similar study were included in the analysis. Genotyping was performed using the Pain Research Panel, an Affymetrix gene chip representing 3295 single nucleotide polymorphisms, including ancestry-informative markers that were used to adjust for population stratification. Adjusted associations between genetic markers and TMD case status were evaluated using logistic regression. The OPPERA findings provided evidence supporting previously-reported associations between TMD and two genes: HTR2A and COMT. Other genes were revealed as potential new genetic risk factors for TMD, including NR3C1, CAMK4, CHRM2, IFRD1, and GRK5. While these findings need to be replicated in independent cohorts, the genes potentially represent important markers of risk for TMD and they identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
Pain genetics; temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD); association study; HTR2A; COMT; NR3C1; CAMK4; CHRM2; IFRD1; GRK5
The subcutaneous and systemic injection of serotonin reduces cutaneous and visceral pain thresholds and increases responses to noxious stimuli. Different subtypes of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors are suggested to be associated with different types of pain responses. Here we show that serotonin also inhibits catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme that contributes to modultion the perception of pain, via non-competitive binding to the site bound by catechol substrates with a binding affinity comparable to the binding affinity of catechol itself (Ki = 44 μM). Using computational modeling, biochemical tests and cellular assays we show that serotonin actively competes with the methyl donor S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) within the catalytic site. Binding of serotonin to the catalytic site inhibits the access of SAM, thus preventing methylation of COMT substrates. The results of in vivo animal studies show that serotonin-induced pain hypersensitivity in mice is reduced by either SAM pretreatment or by the combined administration of selective antagonists for β2- and β3-adrenergic receptors, which have been previously shown to mediate COMT-dependent pain signaling. Our results suggest that inhibition of COMT via serotonin binding contributes to pain hypersensitivity, providing additional strategies for the treatment of clinical pain conditions.
Genetic variations in the catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) gene have been associated with experimental pain and risk of chronic pain development, but no studies have examined genetic predictors of neck pain intensity and other patient characteristics after motor vehicle collision (MVC). We evaluated the association between COMT genotype and acute neck pain intensity and other patient characteristics in 89 Caucasian individuals presenting to the emergency department (ED) after MVC. In the ED in the hours after MVC, individuals with a COMT pain vulnerable genotype were more likely to report moderate to severe musculoskeletal neck pain (76% vs. 41%, RR = 2.11 (1.33 - 3.37)), moderate or severe headache (61% vs. 33%, RR = 3.15 (1.05 – 9.42), and moderate or severe dizziness (26% vs. 12%, RR = 1.97 (1.19 – 3.21)). Individuals with a pain vulnerable genotype also experienced more dissociative symptoms in the ED, and estimated a longer time to physical recovery (median 14 vs. 7 days, p = .002) and emotional recovery (median 8.5 vs. 7 days, p = .038). These findings suggest that genetic variations affecting stress response system function influence the somatic and psychological response to MVC, and provide the first evidence of genetic risk for clinical symptoms after MVC.
Worldwide, acute and chronic pain affects 20% of the adult population and represents an enormous financial and emotional burden. Using genome-wide neuronal-specific RNAi knock-down in Drosophila, we report a global screen for an innate behavior and identify hundreds of novel genes implicated in heat nociception, including the α2δ-family calcium channel subunit straightjacket (stj). Mice mutant for the stj ortholog CACNA2D3 (α2δ3) also exhibit impaired behavioral heat pain sensitivity. In addition, in humans, α2δ3 SNP variants associate with reduced sensitivity to acute noxious heat and chronic back pain. Functional imaging in α2δ3 mutant mice revealed impaired transmission of thermal pain evoked signals from the thalamus to higher order pain centers. Intriguingly, in α2δ3 mutant mice thermal pain and tactile stimulation triggered strong cross-activation or synesthesia of brain regions involved in vision, olfaction, and hearing.
Not all patients with nerve injury develop neuropathic pain. The extent of nerve damage and age at the time of injury are two of the few risk factors identified to date. In addition, preclinical studies show that neuropathic pain variance is heritable. To define such factors further, we performed a large-scale gene profiling experiment which plotted global expression changes in the rat dorsal root ganglion in three peripheral neuropathic pain models. This resulted in the discovery that the potassium channel alpha subunit KCNS1, involved in neuronal excitability, is constitutively expressed in sensory neurons and markedly downregulated following nerve injury. KCNS1 was then characterized by an unbiased network analysis as a putative pain gene, a result confirmed by single nucleotide polymorphism association studies in humans. A common amino acid changing allele, the ‘valine risk allele’, was significantly associated with higher pain scores in five of six independent patient cohorts assayed (total of 1359 subjects). Risk allele prevalence is high, with 18–22% of the population homozygous, and an additional 50% heterozygous. At lower levels of nerve damage (lumbar back pain with disc herniation) association with greater pain outcome in homozygote patients is P = 0.003, increasing to P = 0.0001 for higher levels of nerve injury (limb amputation). The combined P-value for pain association in all six cohorts tested is 1.14 E−08. The risk profile of this marker is additive: two copies confer the most, one intermediate and none the least risk. Relative degrees of enhanced risk vary between cohorts, but for patients with lumbar back pain, they range between 2- and 3-fold. Although work still remains to define the potential role of this protein in the pathogenic process, here we present the KCNS1 allele rs734784 as one of the first prognostic indicators of chronic pain risk. Screening for this allele could help define those individuals prone to a transition to persistent pain, and thus requiring therapeutic strategies or lifestyle changes that minimize nerve injury.
neuropathic pain; phenotype; molecular genetics; axonal injury; gene expression
Methyltransferases possess a homologous domain that requires both a divalent metal cation and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) to catalyze its reactions. The kinetics of several methyltransferases has been well characterized; however, the details regarding their structural mechanisms have remained unclear to date. Using catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) as a model, we perform discrete molecular dynamics and computational docking simulations to elucidate the initial stages of cofactor binding. We find that COMT binds SAM via an induced-fit mechanism, where SAM adopts a different docking pose in the absence of metal and substrate in comparison to the holoenzyme. Flexible modeling of the active site side-chains is essential for observing the lowest energy state in the apoenzyme; rigid docking tools are unable to recapitulate the pose unless the appropriate side-chain conformations are given a priori. From our docking results, we hypothesize that the metal reorients SAM in a conformation suitable for donating its methyl substituent to the recipient ligand. The proposed mechanism enables a general understanding of how divalent metal cations contribute to methyltransferase function.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is a major enzyme controlling catecholamine levels that plays a central role in cognition, affective mood and pain perception. There are three common COMT haplotypes in the human population reported to have functional effects, divergent in two synonymous and one nonsynonymous position. We demonstrate that one of the haplotypes, carrying the non-synonymous variation known to code for a less stable protein, exhibits increased protein expression in vitro. This increased protein expression, which would compensate for lower protein stability, is solely produced by a synonymous variation (C166T) situated within the haplotype and located in the 5′ region of the RNA transcript. Based on mRNA secondary structure predictions, we suggest that structural destabilization near the start codon caused by the T allele could be related to the observed increase in COMT expression. Our folding simulations of the tertiary mRNA structures demonstrate that destabilization by the T allele lowers the folding transition barrier, thus decreasing the probability of occupying its native state. These data suggest a novel structural mechanism whereby functional synonymous variations near the translation initiation codon affect the translation efficiency via entropy-driven changes in mRNA dynamics and present another example of stable compensatory genetic variations in the human population.
Three common haplotypes in the gene encoding catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) have been associated with pain modulation and the risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal pain, namely temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Haplotypes coding for higher enzymatic activity were correlated with lower pain perception. Rodent studies showed that COMT inhibition increases pain sensitivity via β2/3-adrenergic receptors. We hypothesized that the non-selective β-adrenergic antagonist propranolol will reduce clinical and experimental pain in TMD patients in a manner dependent on the subjects’ COMT diplotype.
40 female Caucasian participants meeting the Research Diagnostic Criteria for TMD were genotyped for COMT polymorphisms and completed a randomized, double–blind, placebo-controlled, two-period crossover pilot study. Each period consisted of a baseline assessment week followed by an intervention week (propranolol or placebo). Changes in clinical pain ratings, psychological status, and responses to heat and pressure stimuli between baseline and intervention weeks were compared across periods.
The number of patients reporting a reduction in pain intensity rating was greater during propranolol treatment (p=0.014) compared with placebo. Propranolol significantly reduced a composite pain index (p=0.02) but did not decrease other clinical and experimental pain ratings. When stratified by the COMT high activity haplotype, a beneficial effect of propranolol on pain perception was noted in subjects not carrying this haplotype, a diminished benefit was observed in the heterozygotes, and no benefit was noted in the homozygotes.
COMT haplotypes may serve as genetic predictors of propranolol treatment outcome, identifying a subgroup of TMD patients who will benefit from propranolol therapy.
propranolol; β-blockers; pharmacogenetics; chronic pain; temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD); catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT); polymorphism
The β3-adrenergic receptor (β3AR) is an essential regulator of metabolic and endocrine functions. A major cellular and clinically significant consequence of β3AR activation is the substantial elevation in interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. Although the β3AR-dependent regulation of IL-6 expression is well established, the cellular pathways underlying this regulation have not been characterized. Using a novel method of homogenous reporters, we assessed the pattern of activation of 43 transcription factors in response to the specific β3AR agonist CL316243 in adipocytes, cells that exhibit the highest expression of β3ARs. We observed a unique and robust activation of the CRE-response element, suggesting that IL-6 transcription is regulated via the Gs-protein/cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) but not nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) pathway. However, pretreatment of adipocytes with pharmacologic inhibitors of PKA pathway failed to block β3AR-mediated IL-6 up-regulation. Additionally, stimulation of adipocytes with the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac) agonist did not induce IL-6 expression. Instead, the β3AR-mediated transcription of IL-6 required activation of both the p38 and PKC pathways. Western blot analysis further showed that transcription factors CREB and ATF-2 but not ATF-1 were activated in a p38- and PKC-dependent manner. Collectively, our results suggest that while stimulation of the β3AR leads to a specific activation of CRE-dependent transcription, there are several independent cellular pathways that converge at the level of CRE-response element activation, and in the case of IL-6 this activation is mediated by p38 and PKC but not PKA pathways.
Cytokine; p38; PKC; obesity; inflammation
Opioids are the most widely used analgesics for the treatment of clinical pain. They produce their therapeutic effects by binding to μ-opioid receptors (MORs), which are 7 transmembrane domain (7TM) G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and inhibiting cellular activity. However, the analgesic efficacy of opioids is compromised by side-effects such as analgesic tolerance, dependence and opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). In contrast to opioid analgesia these side effects are associated with cellular excitation. Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain these phenomena, yet the molecular mechanisms underlying tolerance and OIH remain poorly understood.
We recently discovered a new human alternatively spliced isoform of MOR (MOR1K) that is missing the N-terminal extracellular and first transmembrane domains, resulting in a 6TM GPCR variant. To characterize the pattern of cellular transduction pathways activated by this human MOR1K isoform, we conducted a series of pharmacological and molecular experiments. Results show that stimulation of MOR1K with morphine leads to excitatory cellular effects. In contrast to stimulation of MOR1, stimulation of MOR1K leads to increased Ca2+ levels as well as increased nitric oxide (NO) release. Immunoprecipitation experiments further reveal that unlike MOR1, which couples to the inhibitory Gαi/o complex, MOR1K couples to the stimulatory Gαs complex.
The major MOR1 and the alternative MOR1K isoforms mediate opposite cellular effects in response to morphine, with MOR1K driving excitatory processes. These findings warrant further investigations that examine animal and human MORK1 expression and function following chronic exposure to opioids, which may identify MOR1K as a novel target for the development of new clinically effective classes of opioids that have high analgesic efficacy with diminished ability to produce tolerance, OIH, and other unwanted side-effects.