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Corticotropin-releasing factor neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis exhibit sex-specific pain encoding in mice

Scientific Reports

Authors: Waylin Yu, Christina M. Caira, Natalia del R. Rivera Sanchez, Garrett A. Moseley, Thomas L. Kash
Publication: Scientific Reports
Date: June 14, 2021
Link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-91672-8


The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) plays an emerging role in pain regulation. Pharmacological studies have found that inhibiting corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) signaling in the BNST can selectively mitigate the sensory and affective-motivational components of pain. However, mechanistic insight on the source of CRF that drives BNST responses to these harmful experiences remains unknown. In the present study, we used a series of genetic approaches to show that CRF in the BNST is engaged in the processing and modulation of pain. We conducted cell-type specific in vivo calcium imaging in CRF-Cre mice and found robust and synchronized recruitment of BNSTCRF neurons during acute exposures to noxious heat. Distinct patterns of recruitment were observed by sex, as the magnitude and timing of heat responsive activity in BNSTCRF neurons differed for male and female mice. We then used a viral approach in Floxed-CRF mice to selectively reduce CRF expression in the BNST and found it decreased nociceptive sensitivity for both sexes and increased paw attending for females. Together, these findings reveal that CRF in the BNST influences multiple facets of the pain experience to impact the sex-specific expression of pain-related behaviors.

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