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Mol Pharmacol. 2010 Jul;78(1):58-68. doi: 10.1124/mol.110.064311. Epub 2010 Apr 12.

Up-regulation of the mu-opioid receptor gene is mediated through chromatin remodeling and transcriptional factors in differentiated neuronal cells.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Minnesota, 6-120 Jackson Hall, 321 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The effects of morphine are mediated mainly through the mu opioid receptor (MOR). Expression of the MOR is up-regulated during neuronal differentiation in P19 embryonal carcinoma cells and epigenetic changes play an important role in MOR up-regulation. This study investigates the basis for differentiation-dependent alterations of MOR chromatin by studying the recruitment or dissociation of several factors to the remodeled chromatin locus. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were used to demonstrate the recruitment of the transcriptional activator Sp1 and the chromatin remodeling factors Brg1 and BAF155 to this promoter, as well as the dissociation of repressors [histone deacetylases, mSin3A, Brm, and methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2)]. Histone modifications (acetylation, induction of histone H3-lys4 methylation, and reduction of H3-lys9 methylation) were consistently detected on this promoter. Overexpression of Sp1 strongly enhanced MOR promoter activity, and the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A also increased promoter activity. In vitro DNA CpG-methylation of the promoter partially blocked binding of the Sp1 factor but induced MeCP2 binding. Coimmunoprecipitation studies also found novel evidence of an endogenous MeCP2 interaction with Sp3 but a weaker interaction with Sp1. Overall, the results suggest that during neuronal differentiation, MeCP2 and DNA methylation mediate remodeling of the MOR promoter by chromatin remodeling factors (Brg1 and BAF155) from a compacted state to a conformation allowing access for transcriptional factors. Subsequent recruitment of the activating transcription factor Sp1 to the remodeled promoter results in MOR up-regulation.

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