An Emerging Role for Prolactin in Female-Selective Pain

Yanxia Chen, Edita Navratilova, David W. Dodick, Frank Porreca

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Women experience many pain conditions more frequently when compared with men, but the biological mechanisms underlying sex differences in pain remain poorly understood. In particular, little is known about possible sex differences in peripheral nociceptors, the fundamental building blocks of pain transmission. Emerging evidence reveals that prolactin (PRL) signaling at its cognate prolactin receptor (PRLR) in primary afferents promotes nociceptor sensitization and pain in a female-selective fashion. In this review, we summarize recent progress in understanding the female-selective role of PRL/PRLR in nociceptor sensitization and in pathological pain conditions, including postoperative, inflammatory, neuropathic, and migraine pain, as well as opioid-induced hyperalgesia. The clinical implications of the peripheral PRL/PRLR system for the discovery of new therapies for pain control in women are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-648
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • nociceptor sensitization
  • pain
  • prolactin
  • prolactin receptor isoforms
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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