Biological pathways and genetic variables involved in pain

Meike Bartels, Dorret Boomsma, GeneQOL Consortium

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: This paper summarizes current knowledge of pain-related and analgesic-related pathways as well as genetic variations involved in pain perception and management.

METHODS: The pain group of the GENEQOL Consortium was given the task of summarizing the current status of research on genetic variations in pain and analgesic efficacy. This review is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive; we focus primarily on single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

RESULTS: Two categories of potential genetic pain-perception pathways were identified: neurotransmission modulators and mechanisms that affect inflammation. Four categories were identified for analgesic efficacy: genes related to receptor interaction, modulation of opioid effects, metabolism, and transport. Various genetic variations involved in these pathways are proposed as candidate genetic markers for pain perception and for individual sensitivity to analgesics.

CONCLUSIONS: Candidate gene association studies have been used to provide evidence for the genetic modulation of pain perception and response to analgesics. However, the nature and range of genetic modulation of pain is not well addressed due to the limited number of patients and the limited number of genes and genetic variants investigated in studies to date. Moreover, personalized analgesic treatments will require a more complete understanding of the effects of genetic variants and gene-gene interactions in response to analgesics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1407-17
Number of pages11
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1/genetics
  • Analgesics/pharmacology
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System/genetics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation/genetics
  • Pain/drug therapy
  • Pain Perception
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Synaptic Transmission/genetics


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