Opioids are commonly used for pain relief, but their strong rewarding effects drive opioid misuse and abuse.Howpain affects the liability of opioid abuse is unknown at present. In this study, we identified an epigenetic regulating cascade activated by both pain and the opioid morphine. Both persistent pain and repeated morphine upregulated the transcriptional regulator MeCP2 in mouse central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA). Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that MeCP2 bound to and repressed the transcriptional repressor histone dimethyltransferase G9a, reducing G9a-catalyzed repressive mark H3K9me2 in CeA. Repression of G9a activity increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Behaviorally, persistent inflammatory pain increased the sensitivity to acquiring morphine-induced, reward-related behavior of conditioned place preference in mice. Local viral vector-mediated MeCP2 overexpression, Cre-induced G9a knockdown, and CeA application of BDNF mimicked, whereas MeCP2 knockdown inhibited, the pain effect. These results suggest that MeCP2 directly represses G9a as a shared mechanism in central amygdala for regulation of emotional responses to pain and opioid reward, and for their behavioral interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9076-9087
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2014


  • G9a
  • MeCP2
  • Opioid
  • Pain
  • Reward


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