The pharmacological action of morphine as a pain medication is mediated primarily through the μ-opioid receptor (MOR). With few exceptions, MOR is expressed in brain regions where opioid actions take place. The basis for this unique spatial expression of MOR remains undetermined. Recently, we reported that DNA methylation of the MOR promoter plays an important role in regulating MOR in P19 cells. In this study, we show that the differential expression of MOR in microdissected mouse brain regions coincides with DNA methylation and histone modifications. MOR expression could be induced by a demethylating agent or a histone deacetylase inhibitor in MOR-negative cells, suggesting that the MOR gene can be silenced under epigenetic control. Increases in the in vivo interaction of methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) were observed in the cerebellum, in which the MOR promoter was hypermethylated and MOR expression was the lowest among all brain regions tested. MeCP2 is associated closely with Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder. We also established novel evidence for a functional role for MeCP2's association with the chromatin-remodelling factor Brg1 and DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1, suggesting a possible role for MeCP2 in chromatin remodelling during MOR gene regulation. We conclude that MOR gene expression is epigenetically programmed in various brain regions and that MeCP2 assists the epigenetic program during DNA methylation and chromatin remodelling of the MOR promoter.
- Chromatin remodelling
- DNA methylation
- Epigenetic regulation
- Laser capture microdissection
- Opioid receptor