Sexually dimorphic immune and neuroimmune changes following peripheral nerve injury in mice: novel insights for gender medicine

Valentina Vacca, Sara Marinelli, Federica De Angelis, Daniela F. Angelini, Eleonora Piras, Luca Battistini, Flaminia Pavone, Roberto Coccurello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuropathic pain (NeP) in humans is often a life-long condition with no effective therapy available. The higher incidence of female gender in NeP onset is worldwide reported, and although the cause is generally attributed to sex hormones, the actual mechanisms and the players involved are still unclear. Glial and immune cells take part in NeP development, and orchestrate the neuroimmune and inflammatory response, releasing pro-inflammatory factors with chemoattractant properties that activate resident immune cells and recruit immune cells from circulation. The neuro-immune crosstalk is a key contributor to pain hypersensitivity following peripheral nervous system injury. Our previous works showed that in spite of the fact that female mice had an earlier analgesic response than males following nerve lesion, the recovery from NeP was never complete, suggesting that this difference could occur in the very early stages after injury. To further investigate gender differences in immune and neuroimmune responses to NeP, we studied the main immune cells and mediators elicited both in plasma and sciatic nerves by peripheral nerve lesion. After injury, we found a different pattern of distribution of immune cell populations showing either a higher infiltration of T cells in nerves from females or a higher infiltration of macrophages in nerves from males. Moreover, in comparison to male mice, the levels of cytokines and chemokines were differently up-and down-regulated in blood and nerve lysates from female mice. Our study provides some novel insights for the understanding of genderassociated differences in the generation and perseveration of NeP as well as for the isolation of specific neurodegenerative mechanisms underlying NeP. The identification of gender-associated inflammatory profiles in neuropathy is of key importance for the development of differential biomarkers and gender-specific personalized medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4397
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2021


  • Astrocytes
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Estrogen
  • Leptin
  • Microglia
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Neuropathy
  • T-cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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