Sex differences in thermal nociception and morphine antinociception in rodents depend on genotype

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2000 May;24(3):375-89. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(00)00015-4.


It has been appreciated for some time that the sexes can differ in their sensitivity to pain and its inhibition. Both the human and rodent literatures remain quite contentious, with many investigators failing to observe sex differences that others document clearly. Recent data from our laboratory have pointed to an interaction between sex and genotype in rodents, such that sex differences are observed in some strains but not others. However, these studies employed inbred mouse strains and are thus not directly relevant to existing data. We presently examined whether the observation of statistically significant sex differences in nociception and morphine antinociception might depend on the particular outbred rodent population chosen for study. Rats of both sexes and three common outbred strains were obtained from three suppliers (Long Evans, Simonsen; Sprague Dawley, Harlan; Wistar Kyoto, Taconic) and tested for nociceptive sensitivity on the 49 degrees C tail-withdrawal assay, and antinociception following morphine (1-10mg/kg, i.p.). In further studies, three outbred populations of mice (CD-1, Harlan; Swiss Webster, Harlan; Swiss Webster, Simonsen) were bred in our vivarium for several generations and tested for tail-withdrawal sensitivity and morphine antinociception (1-20male, and no significant difference. In a separate study in which the estrous cycle was tracked in female mice, we found evidence for an interaction between genotype and estrous phase relevant to morphine antinociception. However, estrous cyclicity did not explain the observed sex differences. These data are discussed with respect to the existing sex difference and pain literature, and also as they pertain to future investigations of these phenomena.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Pain / genetics*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Rats
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine