Endometriosis alters brain electrophysiology, gene expression and increases pain sensitization, anxiety, and depression in female mice

Biol Reprod. 2018 Aug 1;99(2):349-359. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioy035.


Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent inflammatory disorder among reproductive-aged women associated with pelvic pain, anxiety, and depression. Pain is characterized by central sensitization; however, it is not clear if endometriosis leads to increased pain perception or if women with the disease are more sensitive to pain, increasing the detection of endometriosis. Endometriosis was induced in mice and changes in behavior including pain perception, brain electrophysiology, and gene expression were characterized. Behavioral tests revealed that mice with endometriosis were more depressed, anxious and sensitive to pain compared to sham controls. Microarray analyses confirmed by qPCR identified differential gene expression in several regions of brain in mice with endometriosis. In these mice, genes such as Gpr88, Glra3 in insula, Chrnb4, Npas4 in the hippocampus, and Lcn2 in the amygdala were upregulated while Lct, Serpina3n (insula), and Nptx2 (amygdala) were downregulated. These genes are involved in anxiety, locomotion, and pain. Patch clamp recordings in the amygdala were altered in endometriosis mice demonstrating an effect of endometriosis on brain electrophysiology. Endometriosis induced pain sensitization, anxiety, and depression by modulating brain gene expression and electrophysiology; the effect of endometriosis on the brain may underlie pain sensitization and mood disorders reported in women with the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Endometriosis / complications
  • Endometriosis / genetics
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*