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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 May 2024 - 31 May 2024

2024 May 14



Regulatory T cell-derived enkephalin imparts pregnancy-induced analgesia.


Midavaine É, Moraes BC, Benitez J, Rodriguez SR, Braz JM, Kochhar NP, Eckalbar WL, Domingos AI, Pintar JE, Basbaum AI, Kashem SW


T cells have emerged as sex-dependent orchestrators of pain chronification but the sexually dimorphic mechanisms by which T cells control pain sensitivity is not resolved. Here, we demonstrate an influence of regulatory T cells (Tregs) on pain processing that is distinct from their canonical functions of immune regulation and tissue repair. Specifically, meningeal Tregs (mTregs) express the endogenous opioid, enkephalin, and mTreg-derived enkephalin exerts an antinociceptive action through a presynaptic opioid receptor signaling mechanism that is dispensable for immunosuppression. mTregs are both necessary and sufficient for suppressing mechanical pain sensitivity in female but not male mice. Notably, the mTreg modulation of pain thresholds depends on sex-hormones and expansion of enkephalinergic mTregs during gestation imparts a remarkable pregnancy-induced analgesia in a pre-existing, chronic, unremitting neuropathic pain model. These results uncover a fundamental sex-specific, pregnancy-pronounced, and immunologically-derived endogenous opioid circuit for nociceptive regulation with critical implications for pain biology and maternal health.