Epigenetic regulation of chronic pain

Epigenomics. 2015;7(2):235-45. doi: 10.2217/epi.14.75.


Chronic pain arising from peripheral inflammation and tissue or nerve injury is a common clinical symptom. Although intensive research on the neurobiological mechanisms of chronic pain has been carried out during previous decades, this disorder is still poorly managed by current drugs such as opioids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Inflammation, tissue injury and/or nerve injury-induced changes in gene expression in sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion, spinal cord dorsal horn and pain-associated brain regions are thought to participate in chronic pain genesis; however, how these changes occur is still elusive. Epigenetic modifications including DNA methylation and covalent histone modifications control gene expression. Recent studies have shown that peripheral noxious stimulation changes DNA methylation and histone modifications and that these changes may be related to the induction of pain hypersensitivity under chronic pain conditions. This review summarizes the current knowledge and progress in epigenetic research in chronic pain and discusses the potential role of epigenetic modifications as therapeutic antinociceptive targets in this disorder.

Keywords: DNA methylation; chronic pain; dorsal root ganglion; histone acetylation; histone methylation; inflammatory pain; neuropathic pain; spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / genetics*
  • Chronic Pain / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans


  • Histones