Drexel University researchers suggest that the protein MeCP2 may regulate the expression of genes that modulate pain.

The scientists, from the university’s College of Medicine, suggest that methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) may be able to regulate gene expression by binding to DNA.

Mutations in this protein cause Rett syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that affects mostly girls. Patients with Rett syndrome tend to have a high threshold for pain, according to a media release from Drexel University.

In their study, published recently in Epigenetics & Chromatin, the research team hypothesized that nerve injury may induce differences in the binding pattern of MeCP2. To test this hypothesis, they performed their study in dorsal root ganglia (DRG), a cluster of nerve cell bodies at the root of the spinal nerve.

The team then performed a global study to identify the DMA binding pattern in the DRG. They suggest that after nerve injury, the binding pattern of MeCP2 shifted more toward regions of the DNA that code for proteins and small non-protein coding regulatory RNA molecules, according to the release.

The team concludes, per the release, that MeCP2 broadly binds to chromatin, and can therefore influence the expression of numerous target genes in the peripheral nervous system.

“It is difficult to alter the function of MecP2 with a drug because of its broad expression and role,” says principal investigator Seena Ajit, PhD, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine, in the release.

“Now that we have a molecular basis to link MeCP2 to nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain, we plan to further explore the targets of MeCP2 and understand how they regulate pain,” Ajit adds.

[Source(s): Drexel University, Science Daily]