Dural Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide Produces Female-Specific Responses in Rodent Migraine Models

Amanda Avona, Carolina Burgos-Vega, Michael D Burton, Armen N Akopian, Theodore J Price, Gregory Dussor
Journal of Neuroscience 2019 May 29, 39 (22): 4323-4331
Migraine is the second leading cause for disability worldwide and the most common neurological disorder. It is also three times more common in women; reasons for this sex difference are not known. Using preclinical behavioral models of migraine, we show that application of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) to the rat dura mater produces cutaneous periorbital hypersensitivity. Surprisingly, this response was observed only in females; dural CGRP at doses from 1 pg to 3.8 μg produce no responses in males. In females, dural CGRP causes priming to a pH 7.0 solution after animals recover from the initial CGRP-induced allodynia. Dural application of interleukin-6 causes acute responses in males and females but only causes priming to subthreshold dural CGRP (0.1 pg) in females. Intracisternal application of BDNF also causes similar acute hypersensitivity responses in males and females but only priming to subthreshold dural CGRP (0.1 pg) in females. Females were additionally primed to a subthreshold dose of the NO-donor sodium nitroprusside (0.1 mg/kg) following dural CGRP. Finally, the sexually dimorphic responses to dural CGRP were not specific to rats as similar female-specific hypersensitivity responses were seen in mice, where increased grimace responses were also observed. These data are the first to demonstrate that CGRP-induced headache-like behavioral responses at doses up to 3.8 μg are female-specific both acutely and following central and peripheral priming. These data further implicate dural CGRP signaling in the pathophysiology of migraine and propose a model where dural CGRP-based mechanisms contribute to the sexual disparity of this female-biased disorder. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has long been implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine, and CGRP-based therapeutics are efficacious for the treatment of migraine in humans. However, the location of action for CGRP in migraine remains unclear. We show here that application of CGRP to the cranial meninges causes behavioral responses consistent with headache in preclinical rodent models. Surprisingly, however, these responses are only observed in females. Acute responses to meningeal CGRP are female-specific and sensitization to CGRP after two distinct stimuli are also female-specific. These data implicate the dura mater as a primary location of action for CGRP in migraine and suggest that female-specific mechanisms downstream of CGRP receptor activation contribute to the higher prevalence of migraine in women.

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