Association between polymorphisms in serotonin and dopamine-related genes and endogenous pain modulation

Roi Treister, Dorit Pud, Richard P. Ebstein, Efrat Laiba, Yael Raz, Edith Gershon, May Haddad, Elon Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic studies have become indispensable in understanding pain mechanisms, shedding light on the role of monoamine pathways in pain modulation. The present study was aimed to explore the relationship between functional polymorphisms in serotonin and dopamine-related genes and pain modulation. Two paradigms of pain modulation were administered to 191 healthy participants in a random order: Conditioned Pain Modulation in response to painful stimuli (CPM painful) tested by the coadministration of repeated short painful heat stimuli and a conditioning tonic cold pain stimulation; and Conditioned Pain Modulation in response to nonpainful stimuli (CPM nonpainful) tested similarly, except for using a painless conditioning stimulation. Using the Transmission Disequilibrium Test (TDT), functional variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphisms of the following candidate genes were studied: 1) serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR); 2) dopamine transporter (DAT1); 3) dopamine receptor 4 (DRD4); and 4) monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). DNA samples from both participants and their parents were analyzed. A significant association was found between CPM nonpainful and the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism (P =.001). More specifically, carriers of the long allele exhibited a significantly higher magnitude of CPM nonpainful than carriers of the short allele. No associations were found between the dopamine-related genes and both types of pain modulation. These results highlight the importance of serotonin in endogenous analgesia. Perspective: This article presents an association between the serotonin transporter gene polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and pain modulation derived by nonpainful conditioned pain modulation (CPM nonpainful), rather than painful conditioned pain modulation (CPM painful). These findings emphasize the complex role of serotonin in pain modulation, and highlight the importance of genetic studies in the understanding of interindividual differences in sensitivity to pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-883
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Conditioned Pain Modulation (CPM)
  • Pain
  • dopamine-related genes
  • polymorphism
  • serotonin transporter gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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