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1.  Pain sensitivity and vasopressin analgesia are mediated by a gene-sex-environment interaction 
Nature Neuroscience  2011;14(12):1569-1573.
Quantitative trait locus mapping of chemical/inflammatory pain in the mouse identified the Avpr1a gene, encoding the vasopressin-1A receptor (V1AR), as responsible for strain-dependent pain sensitivity to formalin and capsaicin. A genetic association study in humans revealed the influence of a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs10877969) within AVPR1A on capsaicin pain levels, but only in male subjects reporting stress at the time of testing. The analgesic efficacy of the vasopressin analog, desmopressin, revealed a similar interaction between the drug and acute stress, as desmopressin inhibition of capsaicin pain was seen only in non-stressed subjects. Additional experiments in mice confirmed the male-specific interaction of V1AR and stress, leading to the conclusion that vasopressin activates endogenous analgesia mechanisms unless they have already been activated by stress. These findings represent the first explicit demonstration of analgesic efficacy depending on the emotional state of the recipient, and illustrate the heuristic power of a bench-to-bedside-to-bench translational strategy.
doi:10.1038/nn.2941
PMCID: PMC3225498  PMID: 22019732
2.  Spinal cord Toll-like receptor 4 mediates inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity in male but not female mice 
The innate immune system is increasingly appreciated to play an important role in the mediation of chronic pain, and one molecule implicated in this process is the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Here using pharmacological and genetic manipulations we found that activating TLR4 in the spinal cord, with the agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS), causes robust mechanical allodynia but only in male mice. Spinal LPS had no pain-producing effect in female mice. TLR4 also has a sex-specific role in inflammatory (complete Freund’s adjuvant) and neuropathic (spared nerve injury) pain: pain behaviors were TLR4-dependent in males but TLR4-independent in females. The sex differences appear to be specific to the spinal cord, as LPS administered to the brain or the hindpaw produces equivalent allodynia in both sexes, and specific to pain, as intrathecal LPS produces equivalent hypothermia in both sexes. The involvement of TLR4 in pain behaviors in male mice is dependent on testosterone, as shown by gonadectomy and hormone replacement. We found no sex differences in spinal Tlr4 expression at baseline or after LPS, suggesting the existence of parallel spinal pain processing circuitry in female mice not involving TLR4s.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3859-11.2011
PMCID: PMC3218430  PMID: 22031891
3.  The β3 subunit of the Na+,K+-ATPase mediates variable nociceptive sensitivity in the formalin test 
Pain  2009;144(3):294-302.
It is widely appreciated that there is significant inter-individual variability in pain sensitivity, yet only a handful of contributing genetic variants have been identified. Computational genetic mapping and quantitative trait locus analysis suggested that variation within the gene coding for the β3 subunit of the Na+,K+-ATPase pump (Atp1b3) contributes to inter-strain differences in the early phase formalin pain behavior. Significant strain differences in Atp1b3 gene expression, β3 protein expression, and biophysical properties of the Na+,K+ pump in dorsal root ganglia neurons from resistant (A/J) and sensitive (C57BL/6J) mouse strains supported the genetic prediction. Furthermore, in vivo siRNA knockdown of the β3 subunit produced strain-specific changes in the early phase pain response, completely rescuing the strain difference. These findings indicate that the β3 subunit of the Na+,K+-ATPase is a novel determinant of nociceptive sensitivity and further supports the notion that pain variability genes can have very selective effects on individual pain modalities.
doi:10.1016/j.pain.2009.04.028
PMCID: PMC2744953  PMID: 19464798
genetics; nociception; gene mapping; sodium-potassium pump; formalin
4.  Progress in Genetic Studies of Pain and Analgesia 
Interindividual variability in pain sensitivity and the response to analgesic manipulations remains a considerable clinical challenge as well as an area of intense scientific investigation. Techniques in this field have matured rapidly so that much relevant data have emerged only in the past few years. Our increasing understanding of the genetic mediation of these biological phenomena have nonetheless revealed their surprising complexity. This review provides a comprehensive picture and critical analysis of the field and its prospects.
doi:10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-061008-103222
PMCID: PMC2730377  PMID: 18834308
pain; analgesia; genetics; linkage; association
5.  Propentofylline-Induced Astrocyte Modulation Leads to Alterations in Glial Glutamate Promoter Activation Following Spinal Nerve Transection 
Neuroscience  2008;152(4):1086-1092.
We have previously shown that the atypical methylxanthine, propentofylline, reduces mechanical allodynia after peripheral nerve transection in a rodent model of neuropathy. In the present study, we sought to determine whether propentofylline-induced glial modulation alters spinal glutamate transporters, GLT-1 and GLAST in vivo, which may contribute to reduced behavioral hypersensitivity after nerve injury. In order to specifically examine the expression of the spinal glutamate transporters, a novel line of double transgenic GLT-1-eGFP/GLAST-DsRed promoter mice was used. Adult mice received propentofylline (10 mg/kg) or saline via intraperitoneal injection starting 1-hour prior to L5-spinal nerve transection and then daily for 12 days. Mice receiving saline exhibited punctate expression of both eGFP (GLT-1 promoter activation) and DsRed (GLAST promoter activation) in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, which was decreased ipsilateral to nerve injury on day 12. Propentofylline administration reinstated promoter activation on the injured side as evidenced by an equal number of eGFP (GLT-1) and DsRed (GLAST) puncta in both dorsal horns. As demonstrated in previous studies, propentofylline induced a concomitant reversal of L5 spinal nerve transection-induced expression of Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP). The ability of propentofylline to alter glial glutamate transporters highlights the importance of controlling aberrant glial activation in neuropathic pain and suggests one possible mechanism for the anti-allodynic action of this drug.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.01.065
PMCID: PMC2423012  PMID: 18358622
Spinal glia; Neuropathic pain; Neuroimmune; Peripheral nerve injury; Mice
6.  The organizational and activational effects of sex hormones on tactile and thermal hypersensitivity following lumbar nerve root injury in male and female rats 
Pain  2005;114(1-2):71-80.
Considerable evidence exists for sex differences in human pain sensitivity. Women typically report a higher incidence of various painful conditions and report that the conditions are more painful when compared to men. In the present study, we sought to determine whether sex differences in pain sensitivity are observed using a lumbar radiculopathy model of low back pain in the rat and whether removal or alteration of gonadal hormones at specific timepoints can modulate these sex differences. Pubertal and adult male and female Sprague—Dawley rats were castrated 2 or 6 weeks prior to L5 nerve root injury to determine the activational hormonal effects. In a separate study, neonatal male and female Sprague—Dawley rats were either castrated or injected with testosterone, respectively, on postnatal day one to determine the organizational effects of gonadal hormones on L5 nerve root injury-induced behavioral hypersensitivity. Our results demonstrate that there was a statistically significant sex difference in the magnitude of mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia following experimentally induced radiculopathy in the rat: females demonstrated decreased thresholds to tactile and thermal stimuli as compared to males. Furthermore, the enhanced female hypersensitivity was reversed in pubertal and adult animals ovariectomized 6 weeks, but not 2 weeks prior to L5 nerve root injury. Our results demonstrate that the activational effects of gonadal hormones mediate the enhanced female tactile and thermal hypersensitivity following L5 nerve root injury. These results suggest that manipulation of gonadal hormones may be a potential source for novel therapies for chronic pain in women.
doi:10.1016/j.pain.2004.12.006
PMCID: PMC1361499  PMID: 15733633
Low back pain animal model; Sex difference; Sex hormone; Sex differentiation
7.  Differential regulation of neuregulin 1 expression by progesterone in astrocytes and neurons 
Neuron glia biology  2006;2(4):227-234.
Glial–neuronal interactions are crucial processes in neuromodulation and synaptic plasticity. The neuregulin 1 family of growth and differentiation factors have been implicated as bidirectional signaling molecules that are involved in mediating some of these interactions. We have shown previously that neuregulin 1 expression is regulated by the gonadal hormones progesterone and 17β-estradiol in the CNS, which might represent a novel, indirect mechanism of the neuromodulatory actions of these gonadal hormones. In the present study, we sought to determine the effects of progesterone and 17β-estradiol on neuregulin 1 expression in rat cortical astrocytes and neurons in vitro. We observed that progesterone increased the expression of neuregulin 1 mRNA and protein in a dose-dependent manner in cultured astrocytes, which was blocked by the progesterone receptor antagonist RU-486. In contrast, 17β-estradiol did not increase either neuregulin 1 mRNA or protein in astrocytes. We observed no effect of either progesterone or 17β-estradiol on neuregulin 1 mRNA and protein in rat cortical neurons in vitro. Finally, we observed that treatment of cortical neurons with recombinant NRG1-β1 caused PSD-95 to localize in puncta similar to that observed following treatment with astrocyte-conditioned medium. These results demonstrate that progesterone regulates neuregulin 1 expression, principally in astrocytes. This might represent a novel mechanism of progesterone-mediated modulation of neurotransmission through the regulation of astrocyte-derived neuregulin 1.
doi:10.1017/S1740925X07000385
PMCID: PMC2099160  PMID: 18049715
Sex hormones; neuregulin; glial activation; PSD-95; NGR1

Results 1-7 (7)