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DNA methylation of SPARC and chronic low back pain

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Author(s): Tajerian Maral | Alvarado Sebastian | Millecamps Magali | Dashwood Thomas | Anderson Kathleen | Haglund Lisbet | Ouellet Jean | Szyf Moshe | Stone Laura

Journal: Molecular Pain
ISSN 1744-8069

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 65;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: SPARC | back pain | DNA methylation | epigenetics | intervertebral disc | aging | gene expression | disc degeneration

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background The extracellular matrix protein SPARC (Secreted Protein, Acidic, Rich in Cysteine) has been linked to degeneration of the intervertebral discs and chronic low back pain (LBP). In humans, SPARC protein expression is decreased as a function of age and disc degeneration. In mice, inactivation of the SPARC gene results in the development of accelerated age-dependent disc degeneration concurrent with age-dependent behavioral signs of chronic LBP. DNA methylation is the covalent modification of DNA by addition of methyl moieties to cytosines in DNA. DNA methylation plays an important role in programming of gene expression, including in the dynamic regulation of changes in gene expression in response to aging and environmental signals. We tested the hypothesis that DNA methylation down-regulates SPARC expression in chronic LBP in pre-clinical models and in patients with chronic LBP. Results Our data shows that aging mice develop anatomical and behavioral signs of disc degeneration and back pain, decreased SPARC expression and increased methylation of the SPARC promoter. In parallel, we show that human subjects with back pain exhibit signs of disc degeneration and increased methylation of the SPARC promoter. Methylation of either the human or mouse SPARC promoter silences its activity in transient transfection assays. Conclusions This study provides the first evidence that DNA methylation of a single gene plays a role in chronic pain in humans and animal models. This has important implications for understanding the mechanisms involved in chronic pain and for pain therapy.
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