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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Nov 2019 - 6 Dec 2019


Animal Studies

2020 Feb 17

Behav Brain Res


Prenatal maternal stress is associated with increased sensitivity to neuropathic pain and sex-specific changes in supraspinal mRNA expression of epigenetic- and stress-related genes in adulthood.


Exposure to prenatal maternal stress impacts adult behavioral outcomes and has been suggested as a risk factor for chronic pain. However, the neurobiological mechanisms implicated are not well-characterized. In this study, we analyzed the effect of a prenatal maternal stress on the development of neuropathic pain-related behaviours and gene expression in the frontal cortex and hippocampus in adult offspring following chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve in male and female CD1 mice. Nerve injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity was amplified in both male and female prenatally-stressed offspring, suggesting that prenatal stress exacerbates pain after injury. Analysis of mRNA expression of genes related to epigenetic regulation and stress responses in the frontal cortex and hippocampus, brain structures implicated in chronic pain, showed distinct sex and region-specific patterns of dysregulation. In general, mRNA expression was most frequently altered in the male hippocampus and effects of prenatal stress were more prevalent than effects of nerve injury in both supraspinal areas. These findings demonstrate the impact of prenatal stress on behavioral sensitivity to a painful injury. Changes in the expression of epigenetic- and stress-related genes suggest a possible mechanism by which the early life stress becomes embedded in the central nervous system. Increased understanding of the interactions among early-life stress, sex, and pain may lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets and epigenetic drugs for the treatment of chronic pain disorders.