DNA methylation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic pain. However, the specific genes regulated by DNA methylation under neuropathic pain condition remain largely unknown. Here we investigated how chemokine receptor CXCR3 is regulated by DNA methylation and how it contributes to neuropathic pain induced by spinal nerve ligation (SNL) in mice. SNL increased Cxcr3 mRNA and protein expression in the neurons of the spinal cord. Meanwhile, the CpG (5'-cytosine-phosphate-guanine-3') island in the Cxcr3 gene promoter region was demethylated, and the expression of DNA methyltransferase 3b (DNMT3b) was decreased. SNL also increased the binding of CCAAT (cytidine-cytidine-adenosine-adenosine-thymidine)/enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα) with Cxcr3 promoter and decreased the binding of DNMT3b with Cxcr3 promoter in the spinal cord. C/EBPα expression was increased in spinal neurons after SNL, and inhibition of C/EBPα by intrathecal small interfering RNA attenuated SNL-induced pain hypersensitivity and reduced Cxcr3 expression. Furthermore, SNL-induced mechanical allodynia and heat hyperalgesia were markedly reduced in Cxcr3-/- mice. Spinal inhibition of Cxcr3 by shRNA or CXCR3 antagonist also attenuated established neuropathic pain. Moreover, CXCL10, the ligand of CXCR3, was increased in spinal neurons and astrocytes after SNL. Superfusing spinal cord slices with CXCL10 enhanced spontaneous EPSCs and potentiated NMDA-induced and AMPA-induced currents of lamina II neurons. Finally, intrathecal injection of CXCL10 induced CXCR3-dependent pain hypersensitivity in naive mice. Collectively, our results demonstrated that CXCR3, increased by DNA demethylation and the enhanced interaction with C/EBPα, can be activated by CXCL10 to facilitate excitatory synaptic transmission and contribute to the maintenance of neuropathic pain. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Peripheral nerve injury induces changes of gene expression in the spinal cord that may contribute to the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain. CXCR3 is a chemokine receptor. Whether it is involved in neuropathic pain and how it is regulated after nerve injury remain largely unknown. Our study demonstrates that spinal nerve ligation downregulates the expression of DNMT3b, which may cause demethylation of Cxcr3 gene promoter and facilitate the binding of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α with Cxcr3 promoter and further increase CXCR3 expression in spinal neurons. The upregulated CXCR3 may contribute to neuropathic pain by facilitating central sensitization. Our study reveals an epigenetic mechanism underlying CXCR3 expression and also suggests that targeting the expression or activation of CXCR3 signaling may offer new therapeutics for neuropathic pain.
Pubmed ID: 28100749 RIS Download
Mesh terms: Animals | Base Sequence | CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-alpha | Methylation | Mice | Mice, Inbred C57BL | Mice, Inbred ICR | Neuralgia | Promoter Regions, Genetic | Protein Binding | Receptors, CXCR3
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