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DNA methylation at the mu-1 opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) promoter predicts preoperative, acute, and chronic postsurgical pain after spine fusion

Authors Chidambaran V, Zhang X, Martin LJ, Ding L, Weirauch MT, Geisler K, Stubbeman BL, Sadhasivam S, Ji H

Received 21 January 2017

Accepted for publication 9 March 2017

Published 9 May 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 157—168


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Martin Bluth

Vidya Chidambaran,1,2 Xue Zhang,3,4 Lisa J Martin,2,3 Lili Ding,5 Matthew T Weirauch,6–8 Kristie Geisler,1 Bobbie L Stubbeman,1 Senthilkumar Sadhasivam,1,2 Hong Ji4,9

1Department of Anesthesiology, 2Department of Pediatrics, 3Division of Human Genetics, 4Pyrosequencing Core for Genomic and Epigenomic Research, 5Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, 6Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology, 7Division of Biomedical Informatics, 8Division of Developmental Biology, 9Division of Asthma Research, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

Introduction: The perioperative pain experience shows great interindividual variability and is difficult to predict. The mu-1 opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) is known to play an important role in opioid-pain pathways. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation is a potent repressor of gene expression, DNA methylation was evaluated at the OPRM1 promoter, as a predictor of preoperative, acute, and chronic postsurgical pain (CPSP).
Methods: A prospective observational cohort study was conducted in 133 adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis undergoing spine fusion under standard protocols. Data regarding pain, opioid consumption, anxiety, and catastrophizing (using validated questionnaires) were collected before and 2–3 months postsurgery. Outcomes evaluated were preoperative pain, acute postoperative pain (area under curve [AUC] for pain scores over 48 hours), and CPSP (numerical rating scale >3/10 at 2–3 months postsurgery). Blood samples collected preoperatively were analyzed for DNA methylation by pyrosequencing of 22 CpG sites at the OPRM1 gene promoter. The association of each pain outcome with the methylation percentage of each CpG site was assessed using multivariable regression, adjusting for significant (P<0.05) nongenetic variables.
Results: Majority (83%) of the patients reported no pain preoperatively, while CPSP occurred in 36% of the subjects (44/121). Regression on dichotomized preoperative pain outcome showed association with methylation at six CpG sites (1, 3, 4, 9, 11, and 17) (P<0.05). Methylation at CpG sites 4, 17, and 18 was associated with higher AUC after adjusting for opioid consumption and preoperative pain score (P<0.05). After adjusting for postoperative opioid consumption and preoperative pain score, methylation at CpG sites 13 and 22 was associated with CPSP (P<0.05).
Discussion: Novel CPSP biomarkers were identified in an active regulatory region of the OPRM1 gene that binds multiple transcription factors. Inhibition of binding by DNA methylation potentially decreases the OPRM1 gene expression, leading to a decreased response to endogenous and exogenous opioids, and an increased pain experience.

OPRM1, epigenetics, pain, chronic postsurgical pain, DNA methylation

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