More than 1 in 10 adults in the general population experience chronic widespread body pain (CWP), which lies at one end of a continuous spectrum of pain ranging in both severity and duration. Neuroendocrine factors can modify the effect of known psychological and psychosocial risk factors for progression along the spectrum of pain and development of CWP, and genetic variants that affect neuroendocrine and neural processing potentially affect susceptibility to chronic pain development. We have examined variants across genes encoding the beta2-adrenergic receptor (ADRB2) and catecholamine-O-methyltransferase (COMT) - key neuroendocrine signalling factors - in a large population-based sample to determine whether these may be involved in pain progression and CWP development. A nested association study was conducted using individuals from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study who had been assessed for pain status. Genotypes were available for nine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across ADRB2 and 11 SNPs across COMT. ADRB2 SNPs rs12654778 and rs1042713 were associated either with CWP alone (p=0.02 for both) or with position along pain spectrum (pain status; p=0.04). Common functional ADRB2 haplotype combinations were also associated with pain status (p(model)=0.002) and, further, with both extent and duration of pain (p(model)=0.003 and p(model)=0.002, respectively). There were no associations of either CWP or pain status with COMT genotypes or haplotypes. These results are the first to suggest that functional ADRB2 variants are involved in regulating pain status at a population level. A role for COMT in chronic pain development was not identified, though could not be excluded.
Copyright 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.