Sex differences in the magnitude of response to thermal and tactile stimuli have been demonstrated in both clinical and animal studies. Female rats typically display lower thresholds to painful stimuli and display more robust responses following nerve injury as compared with males. There is a body of evidence implicating the sex hormones in mediating this sex difference. In the present study, we sought to determine which gonadal hormones were involved in mediating the observed female hypersensitivity in female rats both prior to and following experimental nerve root injury using a chronic hormone replacement paradigm. Female rats were ovariectomized and hormone pellets containing 17beta-estradiol, progesterone (P), 17beta-estradiol+progesterone or placebo were implanted s.c. Our results demonstrate that only the group of female rats that received progesterone alone maintained the hypersensitive phenotype following ovariectomy, compared with gonadally intact male rats. This result was observed both in response to thermal stimuli in non-injured female rats and to thermal and tactile stimuli following L5 nerve root ligation, a model of low back pain associated with lumbar radiculopathy. Postmortem analysis of serum gonadal hormone concentrations demonstrates that the hormonal manipulations were successful and the exogenous hormones were similar to physiological levels observed in the sham-ovariectomized controls. Taken together, these results demonstrate the critical role for progesterone in mediating enhanced female tactile and thermal hypersensitivity following L5 nerve root ligation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.11.048
View details for Web of Science ID 000236046100021
View details for PubMedID 16413124