ObjectiveDetermination of possible sex differences in mechanisms promoting migraine progression and the contribution of prolactin and the prolactin long (PRLR-L) and short (PRLR-S) receptor isoforms. BackgroundThe majority of patients with chronic migraine and medication overuse headache are female. Prolactin is present at higher levels in women and increases migraine. Prolactin signaling at the PRLR-S selectively sensitizes nociceptors in female rodents, while expression of the PRLR-L is protective.MethodsMedication overuse headache was modeled by repeated sumatriptan administration in male and female mice. Periorbital and hindpaw cutaneous allodynia served as a surrogate of migraine-like pain. PRLR-L and PRLR-S isoforms were measured in the trigeminal ganglion with western blotting. Possible co-localization of PRLR with serotonin 5HT1B and 5HT1D receptors was determined with RNAscope. Cabergoline, a dopamine receptor agonist that inhibits circulating prolactin, was co-administered with sumatriptan. Nasal administration of CRISPR/Cas9 plasmid was used to edit expression of both PRLR isoforms.ResultsPRLR was co-localized with 5HT1B or 5HT1D receptors in the ophthalmic region of female trigeminal ganglion. A single injection of sumatriptan increased serum PRL levels in female mice. Repeated sumatriptan promoted cutaneous allodynia in both sexes but down-regulated trigeminal ganglion PRLR-L, without altering PRLR-S, only in females. Co-administration of sumatriptan with cabergoline prevented allodynia and down-regulation of PRLR-L only in females. CRISPR/Cas9 editing of both PRLR isoforms in the trigeminal ganglion prevented sumatriptan-induced periorbital allodynia in females.InterpretationWe identified a sexually dimorphic mechanism of migraine chronification that involves down-regulation of PRLR-L and increased signaling of circulating prolactin at PRLR-S. These studies reveal a previously unrecognized neuroendocrine mechanism linking the hypothalamus to nociceptor sensitization that increases the risk of migraine pain in females and suggest opportunities for novel sex-specific therapies including gene editing through nasal delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 constructs.