Epigenetics: A promising paradigm for better understanding and managing pain

Seungmae Seo, Adrienne Grzenda, Gwen Lomberk, Xiao Ming Ou, Ricardo A. Cruciani, Raul Urrutia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Epigenetic regulation of gene expression is a rapidly growing area of research. Considering the longevity and plasticity of neurons, the studies on epigenetic pathways in the nervous system should be of special interest for both epigeneticists and neuroscientists. Activation or inactivation of different epigenetic pathways becomes more pronounced when the cells experience rapid changes in their environment, and such changes can be easily caused by injury and inflammation, resulting in pain perception or distortion of pain perception (eg, hyperalgesia). Therefore, in this regard, the field of pain is at an advantage to study the epigenetic pathways. More importantly, understanding pain from an epigenetics point of view would provide a new paradigm for developing drugs or strategies for pain management. In this review, we introduce basic concepts of epigenetics, including chromatin dynamics, histone modifications, DNA methylation, and RNA-induced gene silencing. In addition, we provide evidence from published studies suggesting wide implication of different epigenetic pathways within pain pathways. Perspective: This article provides a brief overview of epigenetic pathways for gene regulation and highlights their involvement in pain. Our goal is to expose the readers to these concepts so that pain-related phenotypes can be investigated from the epigenetic point of view.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-557
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • DNA methylation
  • Pain
  • chromatin
  • epigenetic
  • histone modification
  • opioid receptors
  • transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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