Elevated levels of DNA methylation at the OPRM1 promoter in blood and sperm from male opioid addicts

Vesselin M. Chorbov, Alexandre A. Todorov, Michael T. Lynskey, Theodore J. Cicero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Objective: The OPRM1 gene was studied for DNA methylation in opioid dependence and possible paternal contribution to epigenetic inheritance of altered methylation profiles. Participants and methods: DNA was extracted from blood and sperm from 13 male opioid addicts and 21 male control subjects. DNA methylation was determined bypyrosequencing in 24 CpG sites at the OPRM1 promoter region. Results: The authors found significantly increased overall methylation in blood DNA from addicted subjects (Kruskal-Wallis [K-W] p = 0.013). Seven CpG sites showed significantly hypermethylated blood DNA from cases when compared with blood DNA from controls (p < 0.05 at CpGs 5, 9, 10, 11, 18, 23, and 24). In sperm-derived DNA from addicts, the methylation was significantly increased at CpG 2 (p = 0.012), and overall methylation did not reach significant difference (K-W (p = 0.523). Conclusions: Increased DNA methylation in the OPRM1 gene is associated with opioid dependence. Hypermethylated CpG sites located in OPRM1 promoter may potentially block the binding of Sp1 and other transcription activators, thus leading to OPRM1 silencing. The increased DNA methylation in sperm may suggest a way of epigenetic heritability of opioid abuse or dependence phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-264
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of opioid management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • CpG island
  • DNA methylation
  • OPRM1
  • Opioid dependence


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