Transcriptomic sex differences in sensory neuronal populations of mice

Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 17;10(1):15278. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72285-z.


Many chronic pain conditions show sex differences in their epidemiology. This could be attributed to 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 hindpaw tissues, revealed only a few sex-dependent DEGs. Sensory neuron purification increased numbers 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 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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Gene Expression / genetics
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / physiology