Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Bradley K. Taylor


Chronic postoperative pain impacts millions of individuals worldwide that undergo a variety of surgical procedures. Opioids remain the mainstay analgesics of acute and perioperative pain; however, prolonged opioid therapy may lead to life-threating adverse effects, tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Therefore, unraveling the cellular mechanisms that drive persistent pain states and opposing endogenous analgesia provided by opioid receptor signaling, may lead to novel analgesics. Evidence suggests that tissue injury leads to increased sensitization of the spinal cord nociceptive neurons which increases susceptibility to chronic pain via an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation of calcium-sensitive adenylyl cyclase isoform 1 (AC1). This phenomenon, named latent pain sensitization (LS), is mediated by a compensatory response of endogenous inhibitory systems.

In this dissertation, we test the hypothesis that surgical insult promotes prolonged activation of kappa opioid receptors (KOR) which mask LS via attenuation of pro-nociceptive AC1 signaling pathways in both male and female animals. We employed a murine model of chronic postoperative pain that promotes LS in the spinal cord and closely resembles the phenotypic features of postoperative pain in human subjects. When behavioral signs of hyperalgesia resolved, we targeted spinal opioid receptor systems and pronociceptive modulators with intrathecal delivery of selective pharmacological antagonists and assessed behavioral signs of hyperalgesia and spinal nociceptive sensitization. We propose that LS is kept in remission by a long-lasting compensatory response of tonic endogenous KOR signaling that hinders a pronociceptive LS pathway that includes not only AC1 but also two downstream targets: protein kinase A (PKA) and exchange protein activated by cAMP (Epac1/2) - in a sex-dependent manner. Our results propose new therapeutic targets for the management of persistent postoperative pain and underscore the importance of tailoring sex-specific pain management strategies.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants NIDA T32DA016176 for LCP, and NIDA R01DA037621 for BKT.