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Neuroendocrine mechanisms governing sex-differences in chronic pain involve prolactin receptor sensory neuron signaling

By Candler Paige, Priscilla A Barba-Escobedo, Jennifer Mecklenburg, Mayur Patil, Vincent Goffin, David Grattan, Gregory Dussor, Armen N Akopian, Theodore J Price

Posted 27 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.25.061663

Many clinical and preclinical studies report higher prevalence and severity of chronic pain in females. We used hyperalgesic priming with interleukin 6 (IL6) priming and PGE2 as a second stimulus as a model for pain chronicity. Intraplantar IL6 induced hypersensitivity was similar in magnitude and duration in both males and females, while both paw and intrathecal PGE2 hypersensitivity was more persistent in females. This difference in PGE2 response was dependent on both circulating estrogen and translation regulation signaling in the spinal cord. In males, the duration of hypersensitivity was regulated by testosterone. Since the prolactin receptor (Prlr) is regulated by reproductive hormones and is female-selectively activated in sensory neurons, we evaluated whether Prlr signaling contributes to hyperalgesic priming. Using a competitive Prlr antagonist, and a mouse line with ablated Prlr in the Nav1.8 sensory neuronal population, we show that Prlr in sensory neurons is necessary for the development of hyperalgesic priming in female but not male mice. Overall, sex-specific mechanisms in the initiation and maintenance of chronic pain are regulated by the neuroendocrine system and, specifically, sensory neuronal Prlr signaling. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Females are more likely to experience chronic pain than males, but the mechanisms that underlie this sexual dimorphism are not completely understood. Here, we demonstrate that the duration of mechanical hypersensitivity is dependent on circulating sex hormones in mice, where estrogen caused an extension of sensitivity and testosterone was responsible for a decrease in the duration of the hyperalgesic priming model of chronic pain. Additionally, we demonstrated that Prolactin receptor expression in Nav1.8+ neurons was necessary for hyperalgesic priming in female, but not male mice. Our work demonstrates a female-specific mechanism for the promotion of chronic pain involving the neuroendrocrine system and mediated by sensory neuronal prolactin receptor. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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