Sex-dependent pain trajectories induced by prolactin require an inflammatory response for pain resolution

Jennifer Mecklenburg, Andi Wangzhou, Anahit H. Hovhannisyan, Priscilla Barba-Escobedo, Sergey A. Shein, Yi Zou, Korri Weldon, Zhao Lai, Vincent Goffin, Gregory Dussor, Alexei V. Tumanov, Theodore J. Price, Armen N. Akopian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Pain development and resolution patterns in many diseases are sex-dependent. This study aimed to develop pain models with sex-dependent resolution trajectories, and identify factors linked to resolution of pain in females and males. Using different intra-plantar ( treatment protocols with prolactin (PRL), we established models with distinct, sex-dependent patterns for development and resolution of pain. An acute PRL-evoked pain trajectory, in which hypersensitivity is fully resolved within 1 day, showed substantial transcriptional changes after pain-resolution in female and male hindpaws and in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). This finding supports the notion that pain resolution is an active process. Prolonged treatment with PRL high dose (1 μg) evoked mechanical hypersensitivity that resolved within 5–7 days in mice of both sexes and exhibited a pro-inflammatory transcriptional response in the hindpaw, but not DRG, at the time point preceding resolution. Flow cytometry analysis linked pro-inflammatory responses in female hindpaws to macrophages/monocytes, especially CD11b+/CD64+/MHCII+ cell accumulation. Prolonged low dose PRL (0.1 μg) treatment caused non-resolving mechanical hypersensitivity only in females. This effect was independent of sensory neuronal PRLR and was associated with a lack of immune response in the hindpaw, although many genes underlying tissue damage were affected. We conclude that different PRL treatment protocols generates distinct, sex-specific pain hypersensitivity resolution patterns. PRL-induced pain resolution is preceded by a pro-inflammatory macrophage/monocyte-associated response in the hindpaws of mice of both sexes. On the other hand, the absence of a peripheral inflammatory response creates a permissive condition for PRL-induced pain persistency in females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-263
Number of pages18
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • DRG
  • Inflammation
  • Pain resolution
  • Prolactin
  • Sex-difference
  • Skin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Immunology


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