Chronic pain involves both central and peripheral neuronal plasticity that encompasses changes in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nociceptors. Within the forebrain, mesocorticolimbic regions associated with emotional regulation have recently been shown to exhibit lasting gene expression changes in models of chronic pain. To better understand how such enduring transcriptional changes might be regulated within brain structures associated with processing of pain or affect, we examined epigenetic modifications involved with active or permissive transcriptional states (histone H3 lysine 4 mono and trimethylation, and histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation) in periaqueductal gray (PAG), lateral hypothalamus (LH), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and ventral tegmental area (VTA) 5 weeks after sciatic nerve injury in mice to model chronic pain. For both male and female mice in chronic pain, we observed an overall trend for a reduction of these epigenetic markers in periaqueductal gray, LH, and NAc, but not VTA. Moreover, we discovered that some epigenetic modifications exhibited changes associated with pain history, while others were associated with individual differences in pain sensitivity. When taken together, these results suggest that nerve injury leads to chronic chromatin-mediated suppression of transcription in key limbic brain structures and circuits, which may underlie enduring changes in pain processing and sensitivity within these systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- chronic pain