Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (30)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

more »
Year of Publication
Document Types
1.  Pirt contributes to uterine contraction-induced pain in mice 
Molecular Pain  2015;11:57.
Uterine contraction-induced pain (UCP) represents a common and severe form of visceral pain. Nerve fibers that innervate uterine tissue express the transient receptor potential vanilloid channel 1 (TRPV1), which has been shown to be involved in the perception of UCP. The phosphoinositide-interacting regulator of TRP (Pirt) may act as a regulatory subunit of TRPV1. The intraperitoneal injection of oxytocin into female mice after a 6-day priming treatment with estradiol benzoate induces writhing responses, which reflect the presence of UCP. Here, we first compared writhing response between Pirt+/+ and Pirt−/− mice. Second, we examined the innervation of Pirt-expressing nerves in the uterus of Pirt−/− mice by immunofluorescence and two-photon microscopy. Third, we identified the soma of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons that innerve the uterus using retrograde tracing and further characterized the neurochemical properties of these DRG neurons. Finally, we compared the calcium response of capsaicin between DRG neurons from Pirt+/+ and Pirt−/− mice. We found that the writhing responses were less intensive in Pirt−/− mice than in Pirt+/+ mice. We also observed Pirt-expressing nerve fibers in the myometrium of the uterus, and that retrograde-labeled cells were small-diameter, unmyelinated, and Pirt-positive DRG neurons. Additionally, we found that the number of capsaicin-responding neurons and the magnitude of evoked calcium response were markedly reduced in DRG neurons from Pirt−/− mice. Taken together, we speculate that Pirt plays an important role in mice uterine contraction-induced pain.
PMCID: PMC4574137  PMID: 26376721
Pirt; Uterine contraction-induced pain; Dorsal root ganglion; TRPV1
2.  Activation of MrgC receptor inhibits N-type calcium channels in small-diameter primary sensory neurons in mice 
Pain  2014;155(8):1613-1621.
Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor subtype C (mouse MrgC11 and rat rMrgC), expressed specifically in small-diameter primary sensory neurons, may constitute a novel pain inhibitory mechanism. We have shown previously that intrathecal administration of MrgC-selective agonists can strongly attenuate persistent pain in various animal models. However, the underlying mechanisms for MrgC agonist-induced analgesia remain elusive. Here, we conducted patch-clamp recordings to test the effect of MrgC agonists on high-voltage-activated (HVA) calcium current in small-diameter dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Using pharmacological approaches, we show for the first time that an MrgC agonist (JHU58) selectively and dose-dependently inhibits N-type, but not L- or P/Q-type, HVA calcium channels in mouse DRG neurons. Activation of HVA calcium channels is important to neurotransmitter release and synaptic transmission. Patch-clamp recordings in spinal cord slices showed that JHU58 attenuated the evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents in substantia gelatinosa (SG) neurons in wild-type mice, but not in Mrg knockout mice, after peripheral nerve injury. These findings indicate that activation of endogenously expressed MrgC receptors at central terminals of primary sensory fibers may decrease peripheral excitatory inputs onto SG neurons. Together, these results suggest potential cellular and molecular mechanisms that may contribute to intrathecal MrgC agonist-induced analgesia. Because MrgC shares substantial genetic homogeneity with human MrgX1, our findings may suggest a rationale for developing intrathecally delivered MrgX1 receptor agonists to treat pathological pain in humans and provide critical insight regarding potential mechanisms that may underlie its analgesic effects.
PMCID: PMC4104261  PMID: 24813294
MrgC; calcium channel; dorsal root ganglion; nerve injury; pain
3.  Enhanced excitability of MRGPRA3- and MRGPRD-positive nociceptors in a model of inflammatory itch and pain 
Brain  2014;137(4):1039-1050.
Using an animal model of inflammatory itch and pain produced by allergic contact dermatitis, Qu et al. reveal hyperexcitability in two distinct populations of pruriceptive cutaneous nociceptors, due in part to enhanced sodium currents. Similar mechanisms may contribute to spontaneous itch and pain in human allergic and inflammatory diseases.
Itch is a common symptom of diseases of the skin but can also accompany diseases of other tissues including the nervous system. Acute itch from chemicals experimentally applied to the skin is initiated and maintained by action potential activity in a subset of nociceptive neurons. But whether these pruriceptive neurons are active or might become intrinsically more excitable under the pathological conditions that produce persistent itch and nociceptive sensations in humans is largely unexplored. Recently, two distinct types of cutaneous nociceptive dorsal root ganglion neurons were identified as responding to pruritic chemicals and playing a role in itch sensation. One expressed the mas-related G-coupled protein receptor MRGPRA3 and the other MRGPRD (MRGPRA3+ and MRGPRD+ neurons, respectively). Here we tested whether these two distinct pruriceptive nociceptors exhibited an enhanced excitability after the development of contact hypersensitivity, an animal model of allergic contact dermatitis, a common pruritic disorder in humans. The characteristics of increased excitability of pruriceptive neurons during this disorder may also pertain to the same types of neurons active in other pruritic diseases or pathologies that affect the nervous system and other tissues or organs. We found that challenging the skin of the calf of the hind paw or the cheek of previously sensitized mice with the hapten, squaric acid dibutyl ester, produced symptoms of contact hypersensitivity including an increase in skin thickness and site-directed spontaneous pain-like (licking or wiping) and itch-like (biting or scratching) behaviours. Ablation of MRGPRA3+ neurons led to a significant reduction in spontaneous scratching of the hapten-challenged nape of the neck of previously sensitized mice. In vivo, electrophysiological recordings revealed that MRGPRA3+ and MRGPRD+ neurons innervating the hapten-challenged skin exhibited a greater incidence of spontaneous activity and/or abnormal after-discharges in response to mechanical and heat stimuli applied to their receptive fields compared with neurons from the vehicle-treated control animals. Whole-cell recordings in vitro showed that both MRGPRA3+ and MRGPRD+ neurons from hapten-challenged mice displayed a significantly more depolarized resting membrane potential, decreased rheobase, and greater number of action potentials at twice rheobase compared with neurons from vehicle controls. These signs of neuronal hyperexcitability were associated with a significant increase in the peak amplitude of tetrodotoxin-sensitive and resistant sodium currents. Thus, the hyperexcitability of MRGPRA3+ and MRGPRD+ neurons, brought about in part by enhanced sodium currents, may contribute to the spontaneous itch- and pain-related behaviours accompanying contact hypersensitivity and/or other inflammatory diseases in humans.
PMCID: PMC3959553  PMID: 24549959
itch; pain; MRGPRA3; MRGPRD; allergic contact dermatitis
4.  Temporal changes in MrgC expression after spinal nerve injury 
Neuroscience  2013;261:43-51.
Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor subtype C (MrgC) may play an important role in pain sensation. However, the distribution of MrgC receptors in different subpopulations of rodent dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons has not been clearly demonstrated owing to a lack of MrgC-selectively antibody. It is also unclear whether peripheral nerve injury induces different time-dependent changes in MrgC expression in injured and uninjured DRG neurons. Here we showed that MrgC immunoreactivity is distributed in both IB4-positive (non-peptidergic) and calcitonin gene-related peptide-positive (peptidergic) DRG neurons in mice and rats. Importantly, the MrgC mRNA level and MrgC immunoreactivity were both decreased in the injured L5 DRG compared to corresponding levels in the contralateral (uninjured) DRG in rats on days 14 and 30 after an L5 spinal nerve ligation. In contrast, mRNA and protein levels of MrgC were increased in the adjacent uninjured L4 DRG. Thus, nerve injury may induce temporal changes in MrgC expression that differ between injured and uninjured DRG neurons. In animal behavior tests, chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve induced mechanical pain hypersensitivity in wild-type mice and Mrg-clusterΔ−/− mice (Mrg KO). However, the duration of mechanical hypersensitivity was longer in the Mrg KO mice than in their wild-type littermates, indicating that activation of Mrgs may constitute an endogenous mechanism that inhibits the maintenance of neuropathic pain. These findings extend our knowledge about the distribution of MrgC in rodent DRG neurons and the regulation of its expression by nerve injury.
PMCID: PMC3945476  PMID: 24374082
MrgC; dorsal root ganglion; neuropathic pain; nerve injury
5.  MrgC agonism at central terminals of primary sensory neurons inhibits neuropathic pain 
Pain  2013;155(3):534-544.
Chronic neuropathic pain is often refractory to current pharmacotherapies. The rodent Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor subtype C (MrgC) shares substantial homogeneity with its human homolog, MrgX1, and is located specifically in small-diameter dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. However, evidence regarding the role of MrgC in chronic pain conditions has been disparate and inconsistent. Accordingly, the therapeutic value of MrgX1 as a target for pain treatment in humans remains uncertain. Here, we found that intrathecal injection of BAM8-22 (a 15-amino acid peptide MrgC agonist) and JHU58 (a novel dipeptide MrgC agonist) inhibited both mechanical and heat hypersensitivity in rats after an L5 spinal nerve ligation (SNL). Intrathecal JHU58-induced pain inhibition was dose-dependent in SNL rats. Importantly, drug efficacy was lost in Mrg-cluster gene knockout (Mrg KO) mice and was blocked by gene silencing with intrathecal MrgC siRNA and by a selective MrgC receptor antagonist in SNL rats, suggesting that the drug action is MrgC-dependent. Further, in a mouse model of trigeminal neuropathic pain, microinjection of JHU58 into ipsilateral subnucleus caudalis inhibited mechanical hypersensitivity in wild-type but not Mrg KO mice. Finally, JHU58 attenuated the mEPSC frequency both in medullary dorsal horn neurons of mice after trigeminal nerve injury and in lumbar spinal dorsal horn of mice after SNL. We provide multiple lines of evidence that MrgC agonism at spinal but not peripheral sites may constitute a novel pain inhibitory mechanism that involves inhibition of peripheral excitatory inputs onto postsynaptic dorsal horn neurons in different rodent models of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3945061  PMID: 24333779
MrgC; dorsal root ganglion; spinal cord; neuropathic pain; analgesia
6.  Central terminal sensitization of TRPV1 by descending serotonergic facilitation modulates chronic pain 
Neuron  2014;81(4):873-887.
The peripheral terminals of primary nociceptive neurons play an essential role in pain detection mediated by membrane receptors like TRPV1, a molecular sensor of heat and capsaicin. However, the contribution of central terminal TRPV1 in the dorsal horn to chronic pain has not been investigated directly. Combining primary sensory neuron-specific GCaMP3 imaging with a trigeminal neuropathic pain model, we detected robust neuronal hyperactivity in injured and uninjured nerves in the skin, soma in trigeminal ganglion, and central terminals in the spinal trigeminal nucleus. Extensive TRPV1 hyperactivity was observed in central terminals innervating all dorsal horn laminae. The central terminal TRPV1 sensitization was maintained by descending serotonergic (5-HT) input from the brainstem. Central blockade of TRPV1 or 5-HT/5-HT3A receptors attenuated central terminal sensitization, excitatory primary afferent inputs, and mechanical hyperalgesia in the territories of injured and uninjured nerves. Our results reveal new central mechanisms facilitating central terminal sensitization underlying chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC3943838  PMID: 24462040
7.  Sensory neurons and circuits mediating itch 
Nature reviews. Neuroscience  2014;15(1):19-31.
Chemicals used experimentally to evoke itch elicit activity in diverse subpopulations of cutaneous pruriceptive neurons, all of which also respond to painful stimuli. However, itch is distinct from pain: it evokes different behaviors, such as scratching, and originates from the skin or certain mucosae but not from muscle, joints or viscera. New insights regarding the neurons that mediate the sensation of itch have been gained from experiments in which gene expression has been manipulated in different types of pruriceptive neurons as well as from comparisons between psychophysical measurements of itch and the neuronal discharges and other properties of peripheral and central pruriceptive neurons.
PMCID: PMC4096293  PMID: 24356071
8.  Three functionally distinct classes of C-fiber nociceptors in primate 
Nature communications  2014;5:4122.
In primate C-fiber polymodal nociceptors are broadly classified into two groups based on mechanosensitivity. Here we demonstrate that mechanically-sensitive polymodal nociceptors that respond either quickly (QC) or slowly (SC) to a heat stimulus differ in responses to a mild burn, heat sensitization, conductive properties and chemosensitivity. Superficially applied capsaicin and intradermal injection of β-alanine, a MrgprD agonist, excite vigorously all QCs. Only 40% of SCs respond to β-alanine, and their response is only half that of QCs. Mechanically-insensitive C-fibers (C-MIAs) are β-alanine insensitive but vigorously respond to capsaicin and histamine with distinct discharge patterns. Calcium imaging reveals that β-alanine and histamine activate distinct populations of capsaicin responsive neurons in primate DRG. We suggest that histamine itch and capsaicin pain are peripherally encoded in C-MIAs and that primate polymodal nociceptive afferents form three functionally distinct subpopulations with β-alanine responsive QC fibers likely corresponding to murine MrgprD- expressing, non-peptidergic nociceptive afferents.
PMCID: PMC4072246  PMID: 24947823
9.  Imaging orofacial pain in mice 
Molecular Pain  2014;10(Suppl 1):O2.
PMCID: PMC4304368
10.  Itch Mechanisms and Circuits 
Annual review of biophysics  2014;43:331-355.
The itch-scratch reflex serves as a protective mechanism in everyday life. However, chronic persistent itching can be devastating. Despite the clinical importance of the itch sensation, its mechanism remains elusive. In the past decade, substantial progress has been made to uncover the mystery of itching. Here, we review the molecules, cells, and circuits known to mediate the itch sensation, which, coupled with advances in understanding the pathophysiology of chronic itching conditions, will hopefully contribute to the development of new anti-itch therapies.
PMCID: PMC4081479  PMID: 24819620
itch; pruritus; neurons; neural circuits; sensitization; pain
11.  Tolerance develops to the antiallodynic effects of the peripherally acting opioid loperamide hydrochloride in nerve-injured rats 
Pain  2013;154(11):10.1016/j.pain.2013.07.023.
Peripherally acting opioids are potentially attractive drugs for the clinical management of certain chronic pain states due to the lack of centrally mediated adverse effects. However, it remains unclear whether tolerance develops to peripheral opioid analgesic effects under neuropathic pain conditions. We subjected rats to L5 spinal nerve ligation (SNL) and examined the analgesic effects of repetitive systemic and local administration of loperamide hydrochloride, a peripherally acting opioid agonist. We found that the inhibition of mechanical hypersensitivity, an important manifestation of neuropathic pain, by systemic loperamide (1.5 mg/kg subcutaneously) decreased after repetitive drug treatment (tolerance-inducing dose: 0.75 to 6.0 mg/kg subcutaneously). Similarly, repeated intraplantar injection of loperamide (150 µg/50 µL intraplantarly) and D-Ala2-MePhe4-Glyol5 enkephalin (300 µg/50 µL), a highly selective mu-opioid receptor (MOR) agonist, also resulted in decreased inhibition of mechanical hypersensitivity. Pretreatment with naltrexone hydrochloride (5 mg/kg intraperitoneally) and MK-801 (0.2 mg/kg intraperitoneally) attenuated systemic loperamide tolerance. Western blot analysis showed that repetitive systemic administration of morphine (3 mg/kg subcutaneously), but not loperamide (3 mg/kg subcutaneously) or saline, significantly increased MOR phosphorylation in the spinal cord of SNL rats. In cultured rat dorsal root ganglion neurons, loperamide dose-dependently inhibited KCl-induced increases in [Ca2+]i. However, this drug effect significantly decreased in cells pretreated with loperamide (3 µM, 72 hours). Intriguingly, in loperamide-tolerant cells, the delta-opioid receptor antagonist naltrindole restored loperamide’s inhibition of KCl-elicited [Ca2+]i increase. Our findings indicate that animals with neuropathic pain may develop acute tolerance to the antiallodynic effects of peripherally acting opioids after repetitive systemic and local drug administration.
PMCID: PMC3863910  PMID: 23880055
Nerve injury; Neuropathic pain; Peripheral opioid receptor; Rats; Tolerance
12.  Immunohistological demonstration of CaV3.2 T-type voltage-gated calcium channel expression in soma of dorsal root ganglion neurons and peripheral axons of rat and mouse 
Neuroscience  2013;250:263-274.
Previous behavioural studies have revealed that CaV3.2 T-type calcium channels support peripheral nociceptive transmission and electrophysiological studies have established the presence of T-currents in putative nociceptive sensory neurons of dorsal root ganglion (DRG). To date, however, the localization pattern of this key nociceptive channel in the soma and peripheral axons of these cells has not been demonstrated due to lack of isoform-selective anti-CaV3.2 antibodies. In the present study a new polyclonal CaV3.2 antibody is used to localize CaV3.2 expression in rodent DRG neurons using different staining techniques including confocal and electron microscopy. Confocal microscopy of both acutely dissociated cells and short-term cultures demonstrated strong immunofluorescence of anti-CaV3.2 antibody that was largely confined to smaller diameter DRG neurons where it co-localized with established immuno-markers of unmyelinated nociceptors, such as, CGRP, IB4 and peripherin. In contrast, a smaller proportion of these CaV3.2-labeled DRG cells also co-expressed NF-200, a marker of myelinated sensory neurons. In the rat sciatic nerve preparation, confocal microscopy demonstrated anti-CaV3.2 immunofluorescence which was co-localized with both peripherin and NF-200. Further, electron microscopy revealed immuno-gold labelling of CaV3.2 preferentially in association with un-myelinated sensory fibres from mouse sciatic nerve. Finally, we demonstrated the expression of CaV3.2 channels in peripheral nerve endings of mouse hindpaw skin as shown by co-localisation with Mrgpd-GFP-positive fibres. The CaV3.2 expression within the soma and peripheral axons of nociceptive sensory neurons further demonstrates the importance of this channel in peripheral pain transmission.
PMCID: PMC3796369  PMID: 23867767
nociceptors; low-voltage-activated; T-currents; DRG; Ca2+
13.  Conventional and Kilohertz-frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation Produces Intensity- and Frequency-dependent Inhibition of Mechanical Hypersensitivity in a Rat Model of Neuropathic Pain 
Anesthesiology  2013;119(2):422-432.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a useful neuromodulatory technique for treatment of certain neuropathic pain conditions. However, the optimal stimulation parameters remain unclear.
In rats after L5 spinal nerve ligation, we compared the inhibitory effects on mechanical hypersensitivity from bipolar SCS of different intensities (20%, 40%, 80% motor threshold) and frequencies (50-Hz, 1-kHz, and 10-kHz). We then compared the effects of 1-kHz and 50-Hz dorsal column stimulation at high and low stimulus intensities on conduction properties of afferent Aα/β-fibers and spinal wide-dynamic-range neuronal excitability.
Three consecutive daily SCS at different frequencies progressively inhibited mechanical hypersensitivity in an intensity-dependent manner. At 80% motor threshold, the ipsilateral paw withdrawal threshold (%preinjury) increased significantly from pre-SCS measures, beginning with the first day of SCS at the frequencies of 1-kHz (50.2 ± 5.7% from 23.9 ± 2.6%, n = 19, mean ± SEM) and 10-kHz (50.8 ± 4.4 % from 27.9 ± 2.3%, n = 17), while it was significantly increased beginning on the second day in the 50-Hz group (38.9 ± 4.6% from 23.8 ± 2.1%, n = 17). At high intensity, both 1-kHz and 50-Hz dorsal column stimulation reduced Aα/β-compound action potential size recorded at the sciatic nerve, but only 1-kHz stimulation was partially effective at the lower intensity. The number of actions potentials in C-fiber component of wide-dynamic-range neuronal response to windup-inducing stimulation was significantly decreased after 50-Hz (147.4 ± 23.6 from 228.1 ± 39.0, n = 13), but not 1-kHz (n = 15), dorsal column stimulation.
Kilohertz SCS attenuated mechanical hypersensitivity in a time course and amplitude that differed from conventional 50-Hz SCS, and may involve different peripheral and spinal segmental mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3763697  PMID: 23880991
14.  Development and Evaluation of Small Peptidomimetic Ligands to Protease-Activated Receptor-2 (PAR2) through the Use of Lipid Tethering 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99140.
Protease-activated receptor-2 (PAR2) is a G-Protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) activated by proteolytic cleavage to expose an attached, tethered ligand (SLIGRL). We evaluated the ability for lipid-tethered-peptidomimetics to activate PAR2 with in vitro physiological and Ca2+ signaling assays to determine minimal components necessary for potent, specific and full PAR2 activation. A known PAR2 activating compound containing a hexadecyl (Hdc) lipid via three polyethylene glycol (PEG) linkers (2at-LIGRL-PEG3-Hdc) provided a potent agonist starting point (physiological EC50 = 1.4 nM; 95% CI: 1.2–2.3 nM). In a set of truncated analogs, 2at-LIGR-PEG3-Hdc retained potency (EC50 = 2.1 nM; 1.3–3.4 nM) with improved selectivity for PAR2 over Mas1 related G-protein coupled receptor type C11, a GPCR that can be activated by the PAR2 peptide agonist, SLIGRL-NH2. 2at-LIG-PEG3-Hdc was the smallest full PAR2 agonist, albeit with a reduced EC50 (46 nM; 20–100 nM). 2at-LI-PEG3-Hdc retained specific activity for PAR2 with reduced EC50 (310 nM; 260–360 nM) but displayed partial PAR2 activation in both physiological and Ca2+ signaling assays. Further truncation (2at-L-PEG3-Hdc and 2at-PEG3-Hdc) eliminated in vitro activity. When used in vivo, full and partial PAR2 in vitro agonists evoked mechanical hypersensitivity at a 15 pmole dose while 2at-L-PEG3-Hdc lacked efficacy. Minimum peptidomimetic PAR2 agonists were developed with known heterocycle substitutes for Ser1 (isoxazole or aminothiazoyl) and cyclohexylalanine (Cha) as a substitute for Leu2. Both heterocycle-tetrapeptide and heterocycle-dipeptides displayed PAR2 specificity, however, only the heterocycle-tetrapeptides displayed full PAR2 agonism. Using the lipid-tethered-peptidomimetic approach we have developed novel structure activity relationships for PAR2 that allows for selective probing of PAR2 function across a broad range of physiological systems.
PMCID: PMC4057235  PMID: 24927179
15.  A long noncoding RNA contributes to neuropathic pain by silencing Kcna2 in primary afferent neurons 
Nature neuroscience  2013;16(8):1024-1031.
Neuropathic pain is a refractory disease characterized by maladaptive changes in gene transcription and translation within the sensory pathway. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as new players in gene regulation, but how lncRNAs operate in the development of neuropathic pain is unclear. Here we identify a conserved lncRNA for Kcna2 (named Kcna2 antisense RNA) in first-order sensory neurons of rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Peripheral nerve injury increases Kcna2 antisense RNA expression in injured DRG through activation of myeloid zinc finger protein 1, a transcription factor that binds to Kcna2 antisense RNA gene promoter. Mimicking this increase downregulates Kcna2, reduces total Kv current, increases excitability in DRG neurons, and produces neuropathic pain symptoms. Blocking this increase reverses nerve injury-induced downregulation of DRG Kcna2 and attenuates development and maintenance of neuropathic pain. These findings suggest native Kcna2 antisense RNA as a new therapeutic target for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3742386  PMID: 23792947
16.  Pirt Functions as an Endogenous Regulator of TRPM8 
Nature communications  2013;4:2179.
Pirt is a membrane protein that is specifically expressed in the peripheral nervous system, where it has been shown to increase the sensitivity of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel and modulate its role in heat pain. The broad expression of Pirt among dorsal root ganglion neurons suggests it may modulate other TRPs, such as the menthol and cooling sensor TRPM8. The discrepancies in the channel properties of TRPM8 in native neurons versus heterologous cells indicate the existence of endogenous modulators of the channel. Here we show that Pirt regulates the function of TRPM8 and its role in detecting cold. Pirt−/− mice exhibit decreased behavioral responses to cold and cool temperatures, and Pirt increases the sensitivity of TRPM8 to menthol and cool temperature. Our data suggest Pirt is an endogenous regulator of TRPM8.
PMCID: PMC3748931  PMID: 23863968
17.  A subpopulation of nociceptors specifically linked to itch 
Nature neuroscience  2012;16(2):174-182.
Itch-specific neurons have been sought for decades. The existence of such neurons is in doubt recently due to the observation that itch-mediating neurons also respond to painful stimuli. Here, we genetically labeled and manipulated MrgprA3+ neurons in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and found that they exclusively innervate the epidermis of the skin and respond to multiple pruritogens. Ablation of MrgprA3+ neurons led to significant reductions in scratching evoked by multiple pruritogens and occurring spontaneously under chronic itch conditions whereas pain sensitivity remained intact. Importantly, mice with TRPV1 exclusively expressed in MrgprA3+ neurons exhibited only itch- and not pain behavior in response to capsaicin. Although MrgprA3+ neurons are sensitive to noxious heat, activation of TRPV1 in these neurons by noxious heat did not alter pain behavior. These data suggest that MrgprA3 defines a specific subpopulation of DRG neurons mediating itch. Our study opens new avenues for studying itch and developing anti-pruritic therapies.
PMCID: PMC3557753  PMID: 23263443
18.  Analgesic properties of loperamide differ following systemic and local administration to rats after spinal nerve injury 
The analgesic properties and mechanisms of loperamide hydrochloride, a peripherally acting opioid receptor agonist, in neuropathic pain warrant further investigation.
We examined the effects of systemic or local administration of loperamide on heat and mechanical hyperalgesia in rats after an L5 spinal nerve ligation (SNL).
1) Systemic loperamide (0.3–10 mg/kg, subcutaneous in the back) dose-dependently reversed heat hyperalgesia in SNL rats, but did not produce thermal analgesia. Systemic loperamide (3 mg/kg) did not induce thermal antinociception in naïve rats; 2) Systemic loperamide-induced anti-heat hyperalgesia was blocked by pretreatment with intraperitoneal naloxone methiodide (5 mg/kg), but not by intraperitoneal naltrindole (5 mg/kg) or intrathecal naltrexone (20 μg/10 μL); 3) Local administration of loperamide (150 μg), but not vehicle, into plantar or dorsal hind paw tissue induced thermal analgesia in SNL rats and thermal antinociception in naïve rats; 4) The analgesic effect of intraplantar loperamide (150 μg/15 μL) in SNL rats at 45 min, but not 10 min, post-injection was blocked by pretreatment with an intraplantar injection of naltrexone (75 μg/10 μL); 5) Systemic (3.0 mg/kg) and local (150 μg) loperamide reduced the exaggerated duration of hind paw elevation to noxious pinprick stimuli in SNL rats. Intraplantar injection of loperamide also decreased the frequency of pinprickevoked response in naïve rats.
These findings suggest that both systemic and local administration of loperamide induce an opioid receptor-dependent inhibition of heat and mechanical hyperalgesia in nerve-injured rats, but that local paw administration of loperamide also induces thermal and mechanical antinociception.
PMCID: PMC3389202  PMID: 22508374
19.  Preso1 dynamically regulates group I metabotropic glutamate receptors 
Nature neuroscience  2012;15(6):836-844.
Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), including mGluR1 and mGluR5, are G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) that are expressed at excitatory synapses in brain and spinal cord. GPCRs are often negatively regulated by specific G protein–coupled receptor kinases and subsequent binding of arrestin-like molecules. Here we demonstrate an alternative mechanism in which group I mGluRs are negatively regulated by proline-directed kinases that phosphorylate the binding site for the adaptor protein Homer, and thereby enhance mGluR–Homer binding to reduce signaling. This mechanism is dependent on a multidomain scaffolding protein, Preso1, that binds mGluR, Homer and proline-directed kinases and that is required for their phosphorylation of mGluR at the Homer binding site. Genetic ablation of Preso1 prevents dynamic phosphorylation of mGluR5, and Preso1−/− mice exhibit sustained, mGluR5-dependent inflammatory pain that is linked to enhanced mGluR signaling. Preso1 creates a microdomain for proline-directed kinases with broad substrate specificity to phosphorylate mGluR and to mediate negative regulation.
PMCID: PMC3434267  PMID: 22561452
20.  Mechanisms of itch evoked by β-alanine 
β-alanine, a popular supplement for muscle building, induces itch and tingling after consumption, but the underlying molecular and neural mechanisms are obscure. Here we show that, in mice, β-alanine elicited itch-associated behavior that requires MrgprD, a G protein-coupled receptor expressed by a subpopulation of primary sensory neurons. These neurons exclusively innervate the skin, respond to β-alanine, heat and mechanical noxious stimuli but do not respond to histamine. In humans, intradermally injected β-alanine induced itch but neither wheal nor flare suggesting that the itch was not mediated by histamine. Thus, the primary sensory neurons responsive to β-alanine are likely part of a histamine-independent itch neural circuit and a target for treating clinical itch that is unrelieved by anti-histamines.
PMCID: PMC3491570  PMID: 23077038
21.  TLR3 deficiency impairs spinal cord synaptic transmission, central sensitization, and pruritus in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):2195-2207.
Itch, also known as pruritus, is a common, intractable symptom of several skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and xerosis. TLRs mediate innate immunity and regulate neuropathic pain, but their roles in pruritus are elusive. Here, we report that scratching behaviors induced by histamine-dependent and -independent pruritogens are markedly reduced in mice lacking the Tlr3 gene. TLR3 is expressed mainly by small-sized primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglions (DRGs) that coexpress the itch signaling pathway components transient receptor potential subtype V1 and gastrin-releasing peptide. Notably, we found that treatment with a TLR3 agonist induces inward currents and action potentials in DRG neurons and elicited scratching in WT mice but not Tlr3–/– mice. Furthermore, excitatory synaptic transmission in spinal cord slices and long-term potentiation in the intact spinal cord were impaired in Tlr3–/– mice but not Tlr7–/– mice. Consequently, central sensitization–driven pain hypersensitivity, but not acute pain, was impaired in Tlr3–/– mice. In addition, TLR3 knockdown in DRGs also attenuated pruritus in WT mice. Finally, chronic itch in a dry skin condition was substantially reduced in Tlr3–/– mice. Our findings demonstrate a critical role of TLR3 in regulating sensory neuronal excitability, spinal cord synaptic transmission, and central sensitization. TLR3 may serve as a new target for developing anti-itch treatment.
PMCID: PMC3366391  PMID: 22565312
22.  Itch: Cells, Molecules, and Circuits 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2010;2(1):17-25.
The itch field has made great advances in recent years, building upon earlier work to form a clearer picture of the biology behind this important sensory modality. Models for how itch is encoded have emerged that fit with physiological, molecular, and behavioral data. The molecular mechanisms of itch, both peripherally and centrally, are being revealed with the aid of newer animal models. Future work must address shortcomings in our current understanding of itch including limitations of current experimental methods. Here we review what is known about the cells, molecules, and circuits involved in itch and highlight key questions that remain to be answered.
PMCID: PMC3123905  PMID: 21720568
Itch; pain; DRG neurons; skin; spinal cord; Mrgpr; GRPR; histamine; and TRP
23.  Itch: Cells, Molecules, and Circuits 
ACS chemical neuroscience  2011;2(1):17-25.
The itch field has made great advances in recent years, building upon earlier work to form a clearer picture of the biology behind this important sensory modality. Models for how itch is encoded have emerged that fit with physiological, molecular, and behavioral data. The molecular mechanisms of itch, both peripherally and centrally, are being revealed with the aid of newer animal models. Future work must address shortcomings in our current understanding of itch including limitations of current experimental methods. Here we review what is known about the cells, molecules, and circuits involved in itch and highlight key questions that remain to be answered.
PMCID: PMC3123905  PMID: 21720568
Itch; pain; DRG neurons; skin; spinal cord; Mrgpr; GRPR; histamine; TRP
24.  The Distinct Roles of Two GPCRs, MrgprC11 and PAR2, in Itch and Hyperalgesia 
Science signaling  2011;4(181):ra45.
Itch has been defined as an unpleasant skin sensation that triggers the urge to scratch. Primary sensory dorsal root ganglia neurons detect itch stimuli through peripheral axons in the skin, playing an important role in generating itch. Itch is broadly categorized as histaminergic (sensitive to antihistamines) or nonhistaminergic. The peptide Ser-Leu-Ile-Gly-Arg-Leu (SLIGRL) is an itch-inducing agent widely used to study histamine-independent itch. Here, we show that Mrgprs (Mas-related G protein–coupled receptors), particularly MrgprC11, rather than PAR2 (protease-activated receptor 2) as previously thought, mediate this type of itch. A shorter peptide, SLIGR, which specifically activates PAR2 but not MrgprC11, induced thermal pain hypersensitivity in mice but not a scratch response. Therefore, although both Mrgpr and PAR2 are SLIGRL-responsive G protein–coupled receptors present in dorsal root ganglia, each plays a specific role in mediating itch and pain.
PMCID: PMC3144551  PMID: 21775281
25.  BAM8–22 peptide produces itch and nociceptive sensations in humans independent of histamine release 
Chronic itch accompanying many dermatological, neurological and systemic diseases is unresponsive to antihistamines. Our knowledge of endogenous chemicals that evoke histamine-independent itch and their molecular targets is very limited. Recently it was demonstrated in behavioral and cellular experiments that bovine adrenal medulla 8–22 peptide (BAM8–22), a proteolytically cleaved product of proenkephalin A, is a potent activator of Mas-related G protein-coupled receptors (Mrgprs), MrgprC11 and hMrgprX1, and induces scratching in mice in a Mrgpr-dependent manner. To study the sensory qualities that BAM8–22 evokes in humans we tested the volar forearm of 15 healthy volunteers with heat-inactivated cowhage spicules previously soaked in the peptide. BAM8–22 produced itch in each subject, usually accompanied by sensations of pricking/stinging and burning. The sensations were occasionally accompanied by one or more mechanically evoked dysesthesias, namely alloknesis, hyperknesis, and hyperalgesia, but no wheal or neurogenic flare in the skin surrounding the application site. The inactive truncated peptide BAM8–18 produced weak or no sensations. Pretreatment of the tested skin with an antihistamine cream (doxepin) inhibited the histamine-induced sensations, dysesthesias and skin reactions but not the sensations and dysesthesias evoked by BAM8–22. We show that BAM8–22 produces itch and nociceptive sensations in humans in a histamine-independent manner. Thus, BAM8–22 may be an endogenous itch mediator that activates, in humans, MrgprX1, a novel target for potential anti-itch treatments.
PMCID: PMC3111068  PMID: 21593341

Results 1-25 (30)