P2X7 is a nonselective cation channel activated by extracellular ATP. P2X7 activation contributes to the proinflammatory response to injury or bacterial invasion and mediates apoptosis. Recently, P2X7 function has been linked to chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain. P2X7 may contribute to pain modulation both by effects on peripheral tissue injury underlying clinical pain states, and through alterations in central nervous system processing, as suggested by animal models. To further test its role in pain sensitivity, we examined whether variation within the P2RX7 gene, which encodes the P2X7 receptor, was associated with experimentally induced pain in human patients. Experimental pain was assessed in Tromsø 6, a longitudinal and cross-sectional population-based study (N = 3016), and the BrePainGen cohort, consisting of patients who underwent breast cancer surgery (N = 831). For both cohorts, experimental pain intensity and tolerance were assessed with the cold-pressor test. In addition, multisite chronic pain was assessed in Tromsø 6 and pain intensity 1 week after surgery was assessed in BrePainGen. We tested whether the single-nucleotide polymorphism rs7958311, previously implicated in clinical pain, was associated with experimental and clinical pain phenotypes. In addition, we examined effects of single-nucleotide polymorphisms rs208294 and rs208296, for which previous results have been equivocal. Rs7958311 was associated with experimental pain intensity in the meta-analysis of both cohorts. Significant associations were also found for multisite pain and postoperative pain. Our results strengthen the existing evidence and suggest that P2X7 and genetic variation in the P2RX7-gene may be involved in the modulation of human pain sensitivity.
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