Aromatase inhibitors augment nociceptive behaviors in rats and enhance the excitability of sensory neurons

Jason D. Robarge, Djane B. Duarte, Behzad Shariati, Ruizhong Wang, David A. Flockhart, Michael Vasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Although aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are commonly used therapies for breast cancer, their use is limited because they produce arthralgia in a large number of patients. To determine whether AIs produce hypersensitivity in animal models of pain, we examined the effects of the AI, letrozole, on mechanical, thermal, and chemical sensitivity in rats. In ovariectomized (OVX) rats, administering a single dose of 1 or 5 mg/kg letrozole significantly reduced mechanical paw withdrawal thresholds, without altering thermal sensitivity. Repeated injection of 5 mg/kg letrozole in male rats produced mechanical, but not thermal, hypersensitivity that extinguished when drug dosing was stopped. A single dose of 5 mg/kg letrozole or daily dosing of letrozole or exemestane in male rats also augmented flinching behavior induced by intraplantar injection of 1000 nmol of adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP). To determine whether sensitization of sensory neurons contributed to AI-induced hypersensitivity, we evaluated the excitability of neurons isolated from dorsal root ganglia of male rats chronically treated with letrozole. Both small and medium-diameter sensory neurons isolated from letrozole-treated rats were more excitable, as reflected by increased action potential firing in response to a ramp of depolarizing current, a lower resting membrane potential, and a lower rheobase. However, systemic letrozole treatment did not augment the stimulus-evoked release of the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) from spinal cord slices, suggesting that the enhanced nociceptive responses were not secondary to an increase in peptide release from sensory endings in the spinal cord. These results provide the first evidence that AIs modulate the excitability of sensory neurons, which may be a primary mechanism for the effect of these drugs to augment pain behaviors in rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitability
  • Exemestane
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Letrozole
  • Nociception
  • Pain
  • Sensory neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Aromatase inhibitors augment nociceptive behaviors in rats and enhance the excitability of sensory neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this