A Functional riboSNitch in the 3 Untranslated Region of FKBP5 Alters MicroRNA-320a Binding Efficiency and Mediates Vulnerability to Chronic Post-Traumatic Pain

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The Journal of neuroscience


Previous studies have shown that common variants of the gene coding for FK506-binding protein 51 (FKBP5), a critical regulator of glucocorticoid sensitivity, affect vulnerability to stress-related disorders. In a previous report, FKBP5 rs1360780 was identified as a functional variant because of its effect on gene methylation. Here we report evidence for a novel functional FKBP5 allele, rs3800373. This study assessed the association between rs3800373 and post-traumatic chronic pain in 1607 women and men from two ethnically diverse human cohorts. The molecular mechanism through which rs3800373 affects adverse outcomes was established via in silico, in vivo, and in vitro analyses. The rs3800373 minor allele predicted worse adverse outcomes after trauma exposure, such that individuals with the minor (risk) allele developed more severe post-traumatic chronic musculoskeletal pain. Among these individuals, peritraumatic circulating FKBP5 expression levels increased as cortisol and glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) mRNA levels increased, consistent with increased glucocorticoid resistance. Bioinformatic, in vitro, and mutational analyses indicate that the rs3800373 minor allele reduces the binding of a stress- and pain-associated microRNA, miR-320a, to FKBP5 via altering the FKBP5 mRNA 3′UTR secondary structure (i.e., is a riboSNitch). This results in relatively greater FKBP5 translation, unchecked by miR-320a. Overall, these results identify an important gene–miRNA interaction influencing chronic pain risk in vulnerable individuals and suggest that exogenous methods to achieve targeted reduction in poststress FKBP5 mRNA expression may constitute useful therapeutic strategies.

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