Sex differences exist in chronic pain pathologies, and gonadal estradiol (E2) alters the pain sensation. The nocisensor transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptor plays a critical role in triggering pain. Here we examined the impact of E2 on the function of TRPV1 receptor in mice sensory neurons in vitro and in vivo. Both mechano-and thermonociceptive thresholds of the plantar surface of the paw of female mice were significantly lower in proestrus compared with the estrus phase. These thresholds were higher in ovariectomized (OVX) mice and significantly lower in sham-operated mice in proestrus compared with the sham-operated mice in estrus phase. This difference was absent in TRPV1 receptor-deficient mice. Furthermore, E2 potentiated the TRPV1 receptor activation-induced mechanical hyperalgesia in OVX mice. Long pretreatment (14 hours) with E2 induced a significant increase in TRPV1 receptor messenger RNA expression and abolished the capsaicin-induced TRPV1 receptor desensitization in primary sensory neurons. The short E2 incubation (10 minutes) also prevented the desensitization, which reverted after coadministration of E2 and the tropomyosin-related kinase A (TrkA) receptor inhibitor. Our study provides in vivo and in vitro evidence for E2-induced TRPV1 receptor upregulation and sensitization mediated by TrkAR via E2-induced genomic and nongenomic mechanisms. The sensitization and upregulation of TRPV1 receptor by E2 in sensory neurons may explain the greater pain sensitivity in female mice.
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