The maternal pain threshold gradually increases during pregnancy, especially in late pregnancy. A series of mechanisms underlying pregnancy-induced analgesia have been reported. However, these mechanisms are still not completely clear, and the underlying molecular mechanisms need further investigation. We examined the relationship between the antinociceptive effect and the expression level of programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1) during pregnancy and further observed the changes in pain thresholds and expression levels of cytokines in late-pregnant mice before and after blockade of PD-L1 or programmed cell death-1 (PD-1).
Part 1: Female mice were assigned to 3 groups (nonpregnant, late-pregnant, and postpartum). Part 2: Late-pregnant mice were assigned to 3 treatment groups (control [phosphate buffer solution], RMP1-14 [mouse anti–PD-1 antibody], and soluble PD-1 [sPD-1]). Behavioral testing (mechanical and thermal) and tissue (serum and spinal cord) analysis were performed on all groups. PD-L1, interleukin (IL)-10, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and IL-6 expression levels in tissue were examined via reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and Western blot analysis.
The mechanical and thermal pain thresholds were significantly increased in late pregnancy and decreased after delivery. PD-L1 expression was also elevated in late pregnancy and decreased after delivery. In addition, in the late stage of gestation, the maternal inflammatory microenvironment was dominated by anti-inflammatory factors. After administration of RMP1-14 or sPD-1, the pain thresholds of late-pregnant mice were significantly reduced. In late-pregnant mice, the high level of IL-10 was obviously reduced, and the low levels of TNF-α and IL-6 were elevated.
The PD-L1/PD-1 pathway mediates pregnancy-induced analgesia, partially via the regulation of cytokines.
- Question: The mechanisms of pregnancy-induced analgesia are not completely clear; are there any other molecular mechanisms that mediate pregnancy-induced analgesia?
- Findings: The programmed cell death ligand-1/programmed cell death-1 (PD-L1/PD-1) pathway mediates pregnancy-induced analgesia by regulating the inflammatory cytokine microenvironment in the spinal cord.
- Meaning: The application of PD-L1 for the treatment of acute or chronic pain in pregnant women and for labor analgesia appears promising.