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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Jun 2021 - 25 Jun 2021

Animal Studies

2021 Jul




The role of medial prefrontal cortex projections to locus ceruleus in mediating the sex differences in behavior in mice with inflammatory pain.


We tested the hypothesis that the cognitive impairment associated with inflammatory pain may result from dysregulation of the top-down control of locus ceruleus's (LC) activity by the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) served as a model for inflammatory pain. The CFA injection decreased the thermal thresholds in both sexes but only the male mice showed increased anxiety-like behavior and diminished cognition, while the females were not affected. Increased calcium fluorescence, a marker for neuronal activity, was detected by photometry in the mPFC of males but not in females with CFA. Next, while chemogenetic inhibition of the projections from the mPFC to the LC improved the object recognition memory of males with pain, the inhibition of the mPFC to LC pathway in female mice produced anxiolysis and spatial memory deficits. The behavior results prompted us to compare the reciprocal innervation of mPFC and LC between the sexes. We used an anterograde transsynaptic tagging technique, which relies on postsynaptic cre transfer, to assess the innervation of LC by mPFC efferents. The males showed a higher rate of postsynaptic cre transfer into LC neurons from mPFC efferents than the females. And vice versa, a retrograde tracing experiment demonstrated that LC to mPFC projection neurons were more numerous in females when compared to males. In conclusion, we provide evidence that subtle differences in the reciprocal neuronal circuit between the LC and mPFC may contribute to sex differences associated with the adverse cognitive effects of inflammatory pain.