Pituitary hormones are specifically expressed in trigeminal sensory neurons and contribute to pain responses in the trigeminal system

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 8;11(1):17813. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97084-y.


Trigeminal (TG), dorsal root (DRG), and nodose/jugular (NG/JG) ganglia each possess specialized and distinct functions. We used RNA sequencing of two-cycle sorted Pirt-positive neurons to identify genes exclusively expressing in L3-L5 DRG, T10-L1 DRG, NG/JG, and TG mouse ganglion neurons. Transcription factor Phox2b and Efcab6 are specifically expressed in NG/JG while Hoxa7 is exclusively present in both T10-L1 and L3-L5 DRG neurons. Cyp2f2, Krt18, and Ptgds, along with pituitary hormone prolactin (Prl), growth hormone (Gh), and proopiomelanocortin (Pomc) encoding genes are almost exclusively in TG neurons. Immunohistochemistry confirmed selective expression of these hormones in TG neurons and dural nerves; and showed GH expression in subsets of TRPV1+ and CGRP+ TG neurons. We next examined GH roles in hypersensitivity in the spinal versus trigeminal systems. Exogenous GH produced mechanical hypersensitivity when injected intrathecally, but not intraplantarly. GH-induced thermal hypersensitivity was not detected in the spinal system. GH dose-dependently generated orofacial and headache-like periorbital mechanical hypersensitivity after administration into masseter muscle and dura, respectively. Periorbital mechanical hypersensitivity was reversed by a GH receptor antagonist, pegvisomant. Overall, pituitary hormone genes are selective for TG versus other ganglia somatotypes; and GH has distinctive functional significance in the trigeminal versus spinal systems.

Publication types

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