MicroRNA 320a Predicts Chronic Axial and Widespread Pain Development Following Motor Vehicle Collision in a Stress-Dependent Manner

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STUDY DESIGN:Prospective human cohort study combined with molecular studies.BACKGROUND:A microRNA is a small, noncoding RNA molecule that can play a role in disease onset. Recent studies found that circulating levels of microRNA 320a (miR-320a) are associated with musculoskeletal pain conditions and that miR-320a is stress responsive.OBJECTIVES:To investigate whether circulating expression levels of miR-320a in the peritraumatic period predict persistent axial musculoskeletal pain 6 months after motor vehicle collision (MVC).METHODS:We evaluated whether (1) circulating miR-320a and related members of the miR-320a family predict axial musculoskeletal pain and other musculoskeletal pain outcomes 6 months following MVC, and (2) miR-320a regulates stress system and pain-related transcripts in cell culture. Given the wealth of data suggesting that biological mechanisms influencing pain outcomes are often sex and/or stress dependent, interactions between miR-320a, stress, and sex were evaluated.RESULTS:In primary analyses (n = 69), a significant crossover interaction was observed between the influence of circulating miR-320a and peritraumatic distress (β = -0.01, P = .002) on post-MVC axial musculoskeletal pain. Reduced peritraumatic miR-320a expression levels predicted axial musculoskeletal pain in distressed individuals (β = -0.12, P = .006) but not nondistressed individuals. In secondary analyses, miR-320a predicted widespread musculoskeletal pain, and related members of the miR-320a family also predicted axial and widespread musculoskeletal pain. In cell culture, miR-320a bound stress and pain-associated 3′UTR transcripts (FKBP5, ADCYAP1, PER2, and NR3C1).CONCLUSION:These data suggest that miR-320a may help mediate regional and widespread changes in pain sensitivity after MVC.

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