Pain and Neuroinflammation Imaging Lab

Transcriptional and cellular signatures of cortical morphometric remodelling in chronic pain


Martins, D., et al., 2022. Transcriptional and cellular signatures of cortical morphometric remodelling in chronic pain. Pain , 163 (6) , pp. e759-e773.

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Date Published:

2022 06 01


ABSTRACT: Chronic pain is a highly debilitating and difficult to treat condition, which affects the structure of the brain. Although the development of chronic pain is moderately heritable, how disease-related alterations at the microscopic genetic architecture drive macroscopic brain abnormalities is currently largely unknown. Here, we examined alterations in morphometric similarity (MS) and applied an integrative imaging transcriptomics approach to identify transcriptional and cellular correlates of these MS changes, in 3 independent small cohorts of patients with distinct chronic pain syndromes (knee osteoarthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia) and age-matched and sex-matched pain-free controls. We uncover a novel pattern of cortical MS remodelling involving mostly small-to-medium MS increases in the insula and limbic cortex (none of these changes survived stringent false discovery rate correction for the number of regions tested). This pattern of changes is different from that observed in patients with major depression and cuts across the boundaries of specific pain syndromes. By leveraging transcriptomic data from Allen Human Brain Atlas, we show that cortical MS remodelling in chronic pain spatially correlates with the brain-wide expression of genes related to pain and broadly involved in the glial immune response and neuronal plasticity. Our findings bridge levels to connect genes, cell classes, and biological pathways to in vivo imaging correlates of chronic pain. Although correlational, our data suggest that cortical remodelling in chronic pain might be shaped by multiple elements of the cellular architecture of the brain and identifies several pathways that could be prioritized in future genetic association or drug development studies.

Last updated on 10/07/2022