The interplay among pain, allergy and dysregulated inflammation promises to yield significant conceptual advances in immunology and chronic pain. Hapten-mediated contact hypersensitivity reactions are used to model skin allergies in rodents but have not been utilized to study associated changes in pain perception in the affected skin. Here we characterized changes in mechanical hyperalgesia in oxazolone-sensitized female mice challenged with single and repeated labiar skin exposure to oxazolone. Female mice were sensitized with topical oxazolone on their flanks and challenged 1-3 times on the labia. We then measured mechanical sensitivity of the vulvar region with an electronic pressure meter and evaluated expression of inflammatory genes, leukocyte influx and levels of innervation in the labiar tissue. Oxazolone-sensitized mice developed vulvar mechanical hyperalgesia after a single labiar oxazolone challenge. Hyperalgesia lasted up to 24 hours along with local influx of neutrophils, upregulation of inflammatory cytokine gene expression, and increased density of cutaneous labiar nerve fibers. Three daily oxazolone challenges produced vulvar mechanical hyperalgesic responses and increases in nerve density that were detectable up to 5 days post-challenge even after overt inflammation resolved. This persistent vulvar hyperalgesia is resonant with vulvodynia, an understudied chronic pain condition that is remarkably prevalent in 18-60 year-old women. An elevated risk for vulvodynia has been associated with a history of environmental allergies. Our pre-clinical model can be readily adapted to regimens of chronic exposures and long-term assessment of vulvar pain with and without concurrent inflammation to improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying subsets of vulvodynia and to develop new therapeutics for this condition.
Martinov, Tijana; Glenn-Finer, Rose; Burley, Sarah; Tonc, Elena; Balsells, Evelyn; Ashbaugh, Alyssa; Swanson, Linnea; Daughters, Randy S.; and Chatterjea, Devavani, "Contact Hypersensitivity to Oxazolone Provokes Vulvar Mechanical Hyperalgesia in Mice" (2013). Faculty Publications. 9.
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