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A Role for Bradykinin Signaling in Chronic Vulvar Pain

Published:August 18, 2016DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2016.07.007

      Highlights

      • Human vulvar fibroblasts respond to bradykinin, linked to inflammation and pain.
      • Fibroblasts sampled from sites of allodynia have heightened bradykinin sensitivity.
      • Bradykinin elicits production of algogenic factors by vulvar cells.
      • Impairing bradykinin sensing reduces algogenic signaling.
      • Dampening bradykinin signaling may have therapeutic benefits for localized provoked vulvodynia.

      Abstract

      Chronic vulvar pain is alarmingly common in women of reproductive age and is often accompanied by psychological distress, sexual dysfunction, and a significant reduction in quality of life. Localized provoked vulvodynia (LPV) is associated with intense vulvar pain concentrated in the vulvar vestibule (area surrounding vaginal opening). To date, the origins of vulvodynia are poorly understood, and treatment for LPV manages pain symptoms, but does not resolve the root causes of disease. Until recently, no definitive disease mechanisms had been identified; our work indicates LPV has inflammatory origins, although additional studies are needed to understand LPV pain. Bradykinin signaling is one of the most potent inducers of inflammatory pain and is a candidate contributor to LPV. We report that bradykinin receptors are expressed at elevated levels in LPV patient versus healthy control vestibular fibroblasts, and patient vestibular fibroblasts produce elevated levels of proinflammatory mediators with bradykinin stimulation. Inhibiting expression of one or both bradykinin receptors significantly reduces proinflammatory mediator production. Finally, we determined that bradykinin activates nuclear factor (NF)κB signaling (a major inflammatory pathway), whereas inhibition of NFκB successfully ablates this response. These data suggest that therapeutic agents targeting bradykinin sensing and/or NFκB may represent new, more specific options for LPV therapy.

      Perspective

      There is an unmet need for the development of more effective vulvodynia therapies. As we explore the mechanisms by which human vulvar fibroblasts respond to proinflammatory/propain stimuli, we move closer to understanding the origins of chronic vulvar pain and identifying new therapeutic targets, knowledge that could significantly improve patient care.

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