Neuron-restrictive silencer factor–mediated downregulation of μ-opioid receptor contributes to the reduced morphine analgesia in bone cancer pain

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Bone cancer pain has been reported to have unique mechanisms and is resistant to morphine treatment. Recent studies have indicated that neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF) plays a crucial role in modulating the expression of the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) gene. The present study elucidates the regulatory mechanisms of MOR and its ability to affect bone cancer pain. Using a sarcoma-inoculated murine model, pain behaviors that represent continuous or breakthrough pain were evaluated. Expression of NRSF in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal dorsal horn was quantified at the transcriptional and translational levels, respectively. Additionally, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were used to detect NRSF binding to the promoter of MOR. Furthermore, NRSF was genetically knocked out by antisense oligodeoxynucleotide, and the expression of MOR and the effect of morphine were subsequently analyzed. Our results indicated that in a sarcoma murine model, NRSF expression is upregulated in dorsal root ganglion neurons, and the expression of NRSF mRNA is significantly negatively correlated with MOR mRNA expression. Additionally, chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that NRSF binding to the neuron-restrictive silencer element within the promoter area of the MOR gene is promoted with a hypoacetylation state of histone H3 and H4. Furthermore, genetically knocking down NRSF with antisense oligodeoxynucleotide rescued the expression of MOR and potentiated the systemic morphine analgesia. The present results suggest that in sarcoma-induced bone cancer pain, NRSF-induced downregulation of MOR is involved in the reduction of morphine analgesia. Epigenetically, up-regulation of MOR could substantially improve the effect of system delivery of morphine.

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