Abstract

The Role of Epigenomic Regulatory Pathways in the Gut-Brain Axis and Visceral Hyperalgesia

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2021 May 31. doi: 10.1007/s10571-021-01108-0.Online ahead of print.

Gerald A Higgins 1, Shaungsong Hong 2, John W Wiley 3

 
     

Author information

  • 1Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
  • 2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
  • 3Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. jwiley@med.umich.edu.

Abstract

The gut-brain axis (GBA) is broadly accepted to describe the bidirectional circuit that links the gastrointestinal tract with the central nervous system (CNS). Interest in the GBA has grown dramatically over past two decades along with advances in our understanding of the importance of the axis in the pathophysiology of numerous common clinical disorders including mood disorders, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes mellitus, non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and enhanced abdominal pain (visceral hyperalgesia). Paralleling the growing interest in the GBA, there have been seminal developments in our understanding of how environmental factors such as psychological stress and other extrinsic factors alter gene expression, primarily via epigenomic regulatory mechanisms. This process has been driven by advances in next-generation multi-omics methods and bioinformatics. Recent reviews address various components of GBA, but the role of epigenomic regulatory pathways in chronic stress-associated visceral hyperalgesia in relevant regions of the GBA including the amygdala, spinal cord, primary afferent (nociceptive) neurons, and the intestinal barrier has not been addressed. Rapidly developing evidence suggests that intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction and microbial dysbiosis play a potentially significant role in chronic stress-associated visceral hyperalgesia in nociceptive neurons innervating the lower intestine via downregulation in intestinal epithelial cell tight junction protein expression and increase in paracellular permeability. These observations support an important role for the regulatory epigenome in the development of future diagnostics and therapeutic interventions in clinical disorders affecting the GBA.

 

 

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