The trigeminal root entry zone (TREZ) is a transitional zone between the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS), adjacent to the brainstem. Microvascular compression of the TREZ has been considered to be the primary etiology in most cases of trigeminal neuralgia (TN), but whether epigenetic regulation is involved in the pathogenesis of TN is still unclear. Therefore, this study was designed to investigate the epigenetic regulation of histone H3 acetylation in the TREZ in an animal model of TN.
An animal model of TN was established, and adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to a TN group with trigeminal nerve root compression, sham operation group, TN+HDACi group (TN plus selective histone deacetylase inhibitor injection into the TREZ), or TN+Veh group (TN plus vehicle injection into the TREZ). To measure the length of the central portion of the TREZ from the junction of the trigeminal nerve root entering the pons to the interface of the dome-shaped CNS-PNS transitional zone, immunofluorescent staining of glia and glial nuclei was performed using glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) antibody and DAPI, respectively. To investigate the acetylation of histone H3 within the TREZ in a TN animal model group and a sham operation group, localization of histone H3K9, H3K18, and H3K27 acetylation was examined via immunohistochemical staining methods.
Measurements of the CNS-PNS transitional zone in the TREZ revealed that the average length from the junction of the trigeminal nerve root connecting the pons to the glial fringe of the TREZ in the TN group was longer than that in the sham operation group (p < 0.05) and that the interface gradually migrated distally. Cells that stained positive for acetylated histone H3K9, H3K18, and H3K27 were distributed around both sides of the border of the CNS-PNS junction in the TREZ. The ratio of immunoreactive H3K9-, H3K18- and H3K27-positive cells in the TN group was obviously higher than that in the sham operation group on postoperative days 7, 14, 21, and 28 (p < 0.05).
These results suggested that chronic compression of the trigeminal nerve root may be involved in the pathogenesis of TN in an animal model by influencing the plasticity of the CNS-PNS transitional zone and the level of histone acetylation in the TREZ.