Stress-induced epigenetic regulation of κ-opioid receptor gene involves transcription factor c-Myc

Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg, Shawna D. Persaud, Horace H Loh, Li-Na Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Exposure to stress is associated with adverse emotional and behavioral responses. Whereas the κ-opioid receptor (KOR) system is known to mediate some of the effects, it is unclear whether and how stress affects epigenetic regulation of this gene. Because the KOR gene can use two promoters (Pr1 and Pr2) and two polyadenylation signals (PA1 and PA2), it is also interesting whether and how these distinct regulatory mechanisms are differentially modulated by stress. The current study examined the effects of stress on these different regulatory mechanisms of the KOR gene. Results showed that stress selectively increased the expression of KOR mRNA isoforms controlled by Pr1 and terminated at PA1 in specific brain areas including the medial-prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, brainstem, and sensorimotor cortex, but not in the amygdala or hypothalamus. These effects correlated with altered epigenetic state of KOR Pr1 chromatin, as well as elevation and increased recruitment of the principal transcription factor c-Myc, which could activate Pr1. Stress-induced modulation of Pr1 was further validated using glutamate-sensitive murine hippocampal cell line, HT22. The results revealed a common molecular mechanism underlying the effect of stress on selected chromatin regions of this gene at the cellular level and in the context of whole animal and identified a critical role for c-Myc in stress-triggered epigenetic regulation of the KOR gene locus. This study sheds light on the mechanisms of stress-induced epigenetic regulation that targets specific chromatin segments and suggests certain KOR transcripts and its principal transcription factor c-Myc as potential targets for brain-area-specific intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9167-9172
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 5 2012


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