Stenz Ludwig et al.
Nociceptive pain involves the activation of nociceptors without damage to the nervous system, whereas neuropathic pain is related to an alteration in the central or peripheral nervous system. Chronic pain itself and the transition from acute to chronic pain may be epigenetically controlled. In this cross-sectional study, a genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was performed using the blood DNA reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) technique. Three prospective cohorts including 20 healthy controls (CTL), 18 patients with chronic nociceptive pain (NOCI), and 19 patients with chronic neuropathic pain (NEURO) were compared at both the single CpG and differentially methylated region (DMR) levels. Genes with DMRs seen in the NOCI and NEURO groups belonged to the neuro-musculoskeletal system and differed between NOCI and NEURO patients. Our results demonstrate that the epigenetic disturbances accompanying nociceptive pain are very different from those accompanying neuropathic pain. In the former, among others, the epigenetic disturbance observed would affect the function of the opioid analgesic system, whereas in the latter it would affect that of the GABAergic reward system. This study presents biological findings that help to characterize NOCI- and NEURO-affected pathways and opens the possibility of developing epigenetic diagnostic assays.