Understanding painful versus non-painful dental pain in female and male patients: A transcriptomic analysis of human biopsies

Biraj Patel, Michael A. Eskander, Phoebe Fang Mei Chang, Brett Chapa, Shivani B. Ruparel, Zhao Lai, Yidong Chen, Armen Akopian, Nikita B. Ruparel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dental pain from apical periodontitis is an infection induced-orofacial pain condition that presents with diversity in pain phenotypes among patients. While 60% of patients with a full-blown disease present with the hallmark symptom of mechanical allodynia, nearly 40% of patients experience no pain. Furthermore, a sexual dichotomy exists, with females exhibiting lower mechanical thresholds under basal and diseased states. Finally, the prevalence of post-treatment pain refractory to commonly used analgesics ranges from 7–19% (*2 million patients), which warrants a thorough investigation of the cellular changes occurring in different patient cohorts. We, therefore, conducted a transcriptomic assessment of periapical biopsies (peripheral diseased tissue) from patients with persistent apical periodontitis. Surgical biopsies from symptomatic male (SM), asymptomatic male (AM), symptomatic female (SF), and asymptomatic female (AF) patients were collected and processed for bulk RNA sequencing. Using strict selection criteria, our study found several unique differentially regulated genes (DEGs) between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, as well as novel candidate genes between sexes within the same pain group. Specifically, we found the role of cells of the innate and adaptive immune system in mediating nociception in symptomatic patients and the role of genes involved in tissue homeostasis in potentially inhibiting nociception in asymptomatic patients. Furthermore, sex-related differences appear to be tightly regulated by macrophage activity, its secretome, and/or migration. Collectively, we present, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of peripherally diseased human tissue after a microbial insult and shed important insights into the regulation of the trigeminal system in female and male patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0291724
JournalPloS one
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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