Scientific Reports: “Transcriptomic Sex Differences in Sensory Neuronal Populations of Mice”

Jennifer Mecklenburg 1Yi Zou 2Andi Wangzhou 3Dawn Garcia 2Zhao Lai 2 4Alexei V Tumanov 5Gregory Dussor 3Theodore J Price 3Armen N Akopian 6 7

Abstract

Many chronic pain conditions show sex differences in their epidemiology. This could be attributed to the sex-dependent differential expression of genes (DEGs) involved in nociceptive pathways, including sensory neurons. This study aimed to identify sex-dependent DEGs in estrous female versus male sensory neurons, which were prepared by using different approaches and ganglion types. RNA-seq on non-purified sensory neuronal preparations, such as whole dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and hind paw tissues, revealed only a few sex-dependent DEGs. Sensory neuron purification increased the number of sex-dependent DEGs. These DEG sets were substantially influenced by preparation approaches and ganglion types [DRG vs trigeminal ganglia (TG)]. Percoll-gradient enriched DRG and TG neuronal fractions produced distinct sex-dependent DEG groups. We next isolated a subset of sensory neurons by sorting DRG neurons back-labeled from paw and thigh muscle. These neurons have a unique sex-dependent DEG set, yet there is a similarity in biological processes linked to these different groups of sex-dependent DEGs. Female-predominant DEGs in sensory neurons relate to inflammatory, synaptic transmission, and extracellular matrix reorganization processes that could exacerbate neuro-inflammation severity, especially in TG. Male-selective DEGs were linked to oxidative phosphorylation and protein/molecule metabolism and production. Our findings catalog preparation-dependent sex differences in neuronal gene expressions in sensory ganglia.

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