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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jun 2019 - 7 Jun 2019

Human Studies

2019 Oct




DNA methylation profiles are associated with complex regional pain syndrome following traumatic injury.


Bruehl S, Gamazon ER, Van de Ven T, Buchheit T, Walsh CG, Mishra P, Ramanujan K, Shaw A
Pain. 2019 Oct; 160(10):2328-2337.
PMID: 31145213.


Factors contributing to development of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) are not fully understood. This study examined possible epigenetic mechanisms that may contribute to CRPS following traumatic injury. DNA methylation profiles were compared between individuals developing CRPS (n=9) and those developing non-CRPS neuropathic pain (n=38) after undergoing amputation following military trauma. Linear Models for Microarray (LIMMA) analyses revealed 48 differentially methylated cytosine-phosphate-guanine dinucleotide (CpG) sites between groups (unadjusted p's<.005), with the top gene COL11A1 meeting Bonferroni-adjusted p<0.05. The second largest differential methylation was observed for the HLA-DRB6 gene, an immune-related gene linked previously to CRPS in a small gene expression study. For all but seven of the significant CpG sites, the CRPS group was hypomethylated. Numerous functional Gene Ontology-Biological Process categories were significantly enriched [FDR (q value)<.15], including multiple immune-related categories (e.g., activation of immune response, immune system development, regulation of immune system processes, antigen processing and presentation). Differentially methylated genes were more highly connected in human protein-protein networks than expected by chance (p<.05), supporting the biological relevance of the findings. Results were validated in an independent sample linking a DNA biobank with electronic health records (n=126 CRPS phenotype, n=19,768 non-CRPS chronic pain phenotype). Analyses using PrediXcan methodology indicated differences in the genetically-determined component of gene expression in 7 of 48 genes identified in methylation analyses (p's<.02). Results suggest immune- and inflammatory-related factors might confer risk for developing CRPS following traumatic injury. Validation findings demonstrate the potential of using electronic health records linked to DNA for genomic studies of CRPS.