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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jan 2022 - 21 Jan 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Jan-Dec

Mol Pain


Sigma-1 receptors and progesterone metabolizing enzymes in nociceptive sensory neurons of the female rat trigeminal ganglia: A neural substrate for the antinociceptive actions of progesterone.


Orofacial pain disorders are predominately experienced by women. Progesterone, a major ovarian hormone, is neuroprotective and antinociceptive. We recently reported that progesterone attenuates estrogen-exacerbated orofacial pain behaviors, yet it remains unclear what anatomical substrate underlies progesterone's activity in the trigeminal system. Progesterone has been reported to exert protective effects through actions at intracellular progesterone receptors (iPR), membrane-progesterone receptors (mPR), or sigma 1 receptors (Sig-1R). Of these, the iPR and Sig-1R have been reported to have a role in pain. Progesterone can also have antinociceptive effects through its metabolite, allopregnanolone. Two enzymes, 5α-reductase and 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3α-HSD), are required for the metabolism of progesterone to allopregnanolone. Both progesterone and allopregnanolone rapidly attenuate pain sensitivity, implicating action of either progesterone at Sig-1R and/or conversion to allopregnanolone which targets GABA receptors. In the present study, we investigated whether Sig-1 Rs are expressed in nociceptors within the trigeminal ganglia of cycling female rats and whether the two enzymes required for progesterone metabolism to allopregnanolone, 5α-reductase and 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, are also present. Adult female rats from each stage of the estrous cycle were rapidly decapitated and the trigeminal ganglia collected. Trigeminal ganglia were processed by either fluorescent immunochemistry or western blotting to for visualization and quantification of Sig-1R, 5α-reductase, and 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Here we report that Sig-1Rs and both enzymes involved in progesterone metabolism are highly expressed in a variety of nociceptive sensory neuron populations in the female rat trigeminal ganglia at similar levels across the four stages of the estrous cycle. These data indicate that trigeminal sensory neurons are an anatomical substrate for the reported antinociceptive activity of progesterone via Sig-1R and/or conversion to allopregnanolone.