Sex differences in serotonin enhancement of capsaicin-evoked calcitonin gene-related peptide release from human dental pulp

Dayna R. Loyd, Xiaoling X. Sun, Erin E. Locke, Margaux M. Salas, Kenneth M. Hargreaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Serotonin (5HT) is a pronociceptive mediator in the periphery, and evidence implicates involvement in trigeminal pain processing. However, the mechanism(s) by which 5HT modulates trigeminal nociceptors remains unclear. Trigeminal pain can be evoked by the transient receptor potential V1 channel (TRPV1), which is expressed by nociceptive trigeminal neurons and induces release of proinflammatory calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). In our preclinical models, 5HT evoked thermal hyperalgesia and enhanced calcium influx and CGRP release from the TRPV1 population of trigeminal nociceptors. Whether this occurs in humans is unknown. As dental pulp is densely innervated by trigeminal nociceptors, routine tooth extractions offer a unique opportunity to examine whether 5HT enhances CGRP release from human nociceptors. Pulpal tissue was collected from 140 extracted molar teeth from men and women, and basal release samples were collected before treatment with saline or 5HT 100 μmol/L. CGRP release was then stimulated with the TRPV1 agonist capsaicin 1 μmol/L and quantitated by enzyme immunoassay. Additional samples were collected for Western blots to examine 5HT receptor expression. We report that 5HT induced a significant increase in capsaicin-evoked CGRP release, and that this enhancement was observed only in female dental pulp, with no effect of 5HT on male dental pulp. The greatest amount of CGRP release occurred in dental pulp from women in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. These results indicate that 5HT enhances capsaicin-evoked CGRP release from human trigeminal nociceptors in a sexually dimorphic manner providing a mechanistic basis for prevalence of trigeminal pain disorders in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2061-2067
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • 5HT
  • CGRP
  • Craniofacial
  • Orofacial
  • Pain
  • Teeth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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