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Original Research, Animal Studies, Basic Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development, Itch

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Novel pro-resolving lipid mediator mimetic 3-oxa-PD1n-3 DPA reduces acute and chronic itch by modulating excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission and astroglial secretion of lipocalin-2 in mice.

Specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) have demonstrated potent analgesic actions in animal models of pathological pain. The actions of SPMs in acute and chronic itch are currently unknown. Recently, n-3 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) was found to be a substrate for the biosynthesis of several novel families of SPMs; 3-oxa-PD1n-3 DPA (3-oxa-PD1) is an oxidation-resistant metabolic stable analogue of the n-3 DPA-derived protectin D1 (PD1). Herein, we demonstrate that 3-oxa-PD1 effectively reduces both acute and chronic itch in mouse models. Intrathecal injection of 3-oxa-PD1 (100 ng) reduced acute itch induced by either histamine, chloroquine, or morphine. Furthermore, intrathecal 3-oxa-PD1 effectively reduced chronic itch, induced by cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL), allergic contact dermatitis with dinitrofluorobenzene, and psoriasis by imiquimod. Intratumoral injection of 3-oxa-PD1 also suppressed CTCL-induced chronic itch. Strikingly, this anti-pruritic effect lasted for several weeks after 1-week of intrathecal 3-oxa-PD1 treatment. Whole-cell recordings revealed significant increase in excitatory postsynaptic currents in spinal dorsal horn (SDH) neurons of CTCL mice, but this increase was blocked by 3-oxa-PD1. 3-oxa-PD1 further increased inhibitory postsynaptic currents in SDH neurons of CTCL mice. CTCL increased the spinal levels of lipocalin-2 (LCN2), an itch mediator produced by astrocytes. 3-oxa-PD1 suppressed LCN2 production in CTCL mice and LCN2 secretion in astrocytes. Finally, CTCL-induced anxiety was alleviated by intrathecal 3-oxa-PD1. Our findings suggest that 3-oxa-PD1 potently inhibits acute and chronic itch via regulation of excitatory/inhibitory synaptic transmission and astroglial LCN2 production. Therefore, stable SPM analogs such as 3-oxa-PD1 could be useful to treat pruritus associated with different skin injuries.

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TRPV1 SUMOylation suppresses itch by inhibiting TRPV1 interaction with H1 receptors.

The molecular mechanism underlying the functional interaction between H1R and TRPV1 remains unclear. We show here that H1R directly binds to the carboxy-terminal region of TRPV1 at residues 715-725 and 736-749. Cell-penetrating peptides containing these sequences suppress histamine-induced scratching behavior in a cheek injection model. The H1R-TRPV1 binding is kept at a minimum at rest in mouse trigeminal neurons due to TRPV1 SUMOylation and it is enhanced upon histamine treatment through a transient TRPV1 deSUMOylation. The knockin of the SUMOylation-deficient TRPV1 mutant in mice leads to constitutive enhancement of H1R-TRPV1 binding, which exacerbates scratching behaviors induced by histamine. Conversely, SENP1 conditional knockout in sensory neurons enhances TRPV1 SUMOylation and suppresses the histamine-induced scratching response. In addition to interfering with binding, TRPV1 SUMOylation promotes H1R degradation through ubiquitination. Our work unveils the molecular mechanism of histaminergic itch by which H1R directly binds to deSUMOylated TRPV1 to facilitate the transduction of the pruritogen signal to the scratching response.

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Slick Potassium Channels Control Pain and Itch in Distinct Populations of Sensory and Spinal Neurons in Mice.

Slick, a sodium-activated potassium channel, has been recently identified in somatosensory pathways, but its functional role is poorly understood. The authors of this study hypothesized that Slick is involved in processing sensations of pain and itch.

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Projections from the lateral parabrachial nucleus to the lateral and ventral lateral periaqueductal gray subregions mediate the itching sensation.

Lateral and ventral lateral subregions of the periaqueductal gray (l/vlPAG) have been proved to be pivotal components in descending circuitry of itch processing, and their effects are related to the subclassification of neurons that were meditated. In the present study, lateral parabrachial nucleus (LPB), one of the most crucial relay stations in the ascending pathway, was taken as the input nucleus to examine the modulatory effect of l/vlPAG neurons that received LPB projections. Anatomical tracing, chemogenetic, optogenetic and local pharmacological approaches were utilized to investigate the participation of the LPB-l/vlPAG pathway in itch and pain sensation in mice. First, morphological evidence for projections from vesicular glutamate transporter-2 (VGluT2)-containing neurons in the LPB to l/vlPAG involved in itch transmission has been provided. Furthermore, chemogenetic and optogenetic activation of the LPB-l/vlPAG pathway resulted in both antipruritic effect and analgesic effect, whereas pharmacogenetic inhibition strengthened nociceptive perception without affecting spontaneous scratching behavior. Finally, in vivo pharmacology was combined with optogenetics which revealed that AMPA receptor-expressing neurons in l/vlPAG might play a more essential role in pathway modulation. These findings provide a novel insight about the connections between two prominent transmit nuclei, LPB and l/vlPAG, in both pruriceptive and nociceptive sensations, and deepen the understanding of l/vlPAG modulatory roles in itch sensation by chosen LPB as source of ascending efferent projections.

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Central opioid receptors mediate morphine-induced itch and chronic itch via disinhibition.

Opioids such as morphine are mainstay treatments for clinical pain conditions. Itch is a common side effect of opioids, particularly as a result of epidural or intrathecal administration. Recent progress has advanced our understanding of itch circuits in the spinal cord. However, the mechanisms underlying opioid-induced itch are not fully understood, although an interaction between µ-opioid receptor (MOR) and gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) in spinal GRPR-expressing neurons has been implicated. In this study we investigated the cellular mechanisms of intrathecal opioid-induced itch by conditional deletion of MOR-encoding Oprm1 in distinct populations of interneurons and sensory neurons. We found that intrathecal injection of the MOR agonists morphine or DAMGO elicited dose-dependent scratching as well as licking and biting, but this pruritus was totally abolished in mice with a specific Oprm1 deletion in Vgat+ neurons [Oprm1-Vgat (Slc32a1)]. Loss of MOR in somatostatin+ interneurons and TRPV1+ sensory neurons did not affect morphine-induced itch but impaired morphine-induced antinociception. In situ hybridization revealed Oprm1 expression in 30% of inhibitory and 20% of excitatory interneurons in the spinal dorsal horn. Whole-cell recordings from spinal cord slices showed that DAMGO induced outward currents in 9 of 19 Vgat+ interneurons examined. Morphine also inhibited action potentials in Vgat+ interneurons. Furthermore, morphine suppressed evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents in postsynaptic Vgat- excitatory neurons, suggesting a mechanism of disinhibition by MOR agonists. Notably, morphine-elicited itch was suppressed by intrathecal administration of NPY and abolished by spinal ablation of GRPR+ neurons with intrathecal injection of bombesin-saporin, whereas intrathecal GRP-induced itch response remained intact in mice lacking Oprm1-Vgat. Intrathecal bombesin-saporin treatment reduced the number of GRPR+ neurons by 97% in the lumber spinal cord and 91% in the cervical spinal cord, without changing the number of Oprm1+ neurons. Additionally, chronic itch from DNFB-induced allergic contact dermatitis was decreased by Oprm1-Vgat deletion. Finally, naloxone, but not peripherally restricted naloxone methiodide, inhibited chronic itch in the DNFB model and the CTCL model, indicating a contribution of central MOR signalling to chronic itch. Our findings demonstrate that intrathecal morphine elicits itch via acting on MOR on spinal inhibitory interneurons, leading to disinhibition of the spinal itch circuit. Our data have also provided mechanistic insights into the current treatment of chronic itch with opioid receptor antagonist such as naloxone.

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Inhibition of mite-induced dermatitis, pruritus, and nerve sprouting in mice by the endothelin receptor antagonist bosentan.

Endothelin-1 (EDN1) can evoke histamine-independent pruritus in mammals and is upregulated in the lesional epidermis of atopic dermatitis (AD). EDN1 increases the production of interleukin 25 (IL-25) from keratinocytes to accelerate T helper type 2 immune deviation. Plasma EDN1 levels are positively correlated with the clinical severity and itch intensity of AD. Therefore, we hypothesized that the inhibition of EDN1 might be useful for treating atopic inflammation and itch and investigated the effects of the topical application of the EDN1 receptor antagonist bosentan on the skin inflammation and itch in a murine AD model.

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Anteromedial thalamic nucleus to anterior cingulate cortex inputs modulate histaminergic itch sensation.

Itch is an unpleasant feeling that triggers scratching behavior. Much progress has been made in identifying the mechanism of itch at the peripheral and spinal levels, however, itch circuits in the brain remain largely unexplored. We previously found that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to dorsal medial striatum (DMS) inputs modulated histamine-induced itch sensation, but how itch information was transmitted to ACC remained unclear. Here, we demonstrated that the anteromedial thalamic nucleus (AM) was activated during histaminergic itch, and there existed reciprocal neuronal projections between AM and ACC. Disconnection between AM and ACC resulted in a significant reduction of histaminergic, but not nonhistaminergic, itch-related scratching behavior. Optogenetic activation of AM-ACC, but not ACC-AM, projections evoked histaminergic itch sensation. Thus, our studies firstly reveal that AM is critical for histaminergic itch sensation and AM-ACC projections modulate histaminergic itch-induced scratching behavior.

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GRP receptor and AMPA receptor cooperatively regulate itch-responsive neurons in the spinal dorsal horn.

Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) receptor-expressing (GRPR) neurons have a central role in the spinal transmission of itch. Because their fundamental regulatory mechanisms are not yet understood, it is important to determine how such neurons are excited and integrate itch sensations. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms for the activation of itch-responsive GRPR neurons in the spinal dorsal horn (SDH). GRPR neurons expressed the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR) containing the GluR2 subunit. In mice, peripherally elicited histaminergic and non-histaminergic itch was prevented by intrathecal (i.t.) administration of the AMPAR antagonist NBQX, which was consistent with the fact that firing of GRPR neurons in SDH under histaminergic and non-histaminergic itch was completely blocked by NBQX, but not by the GRPR antagonist RC-3095. Because GRP neurons in SDH contain glutamate, we investigated the role of GRP (GRP/Glu) neurons in regulating itch. Chemogenetic inhibition of GRP neurons suppressed both histaminergic and non-histaminergic itch without affecting the mechanical pain threshold. In nonhuman primates, i.t. administration of NBQX also attenuated peripherally elicited itch without affecting the thermal pain threshold. In a mouse model of diphenylcyclopropenone (DCP)-induced contact dermatitis, GRP, GRPR, and AMPAR subunits were upregulated in SDH. DCP-induced itch was prevented by either silencing GRP neurons or ablation of GRPR neurons. Altogether, these findings demonstrate that GRP and glutamate cooperatively regulate GRPR AMPAR neurons in SDH, mediating itch sensation. GRP-GRPR and the glutamate-AMPAR system may play pivotal roles in the spinal transmission of itch in rodents and nonhuman primates.

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Amelioration of Compound 48/80-Mediated Itch and LL-37-Induced Inflammation by a Single-Stranded Oligonucleotide.

Numerous inflammatory skin disorders display a high prevalence of itch. The Mas-related G protein coupled receptor X2 (MRGPRX2) has been shown to modulate itch by inducing non-IgE-mediated mast cell degranulation and the release of endogenous inducers of pruritus. Various substances collectively known as basic secretagogues, which include inflammatory peptides and certain drugs, can trigger MRGPRX2 and thereby induce pseudo-allergic reactions characterized by histamine and protease release as well as inflammation. Here, we investigated the capacity of an immunomodulatory single-stranded oligonucleotide (ssON) to modulate IgE-independent mast cell degranulation and, more specifically, its ability to inhibit the basic secretagogues compound 48/80 (C48/80)-and LL-37 and . We examined the effect of ssON on MRGPRX2 activation by measuring degranulation in a human mast cell line (LAD2) and calcium influx in MRGPRX2-transfected HEK293 cells. To determine the effect of ssON on itch, we performed behavioral studies in established mouse models and collected skin biopsies for histological analysis. Additionally, with the use of a rosacea mouse model and RT-qPCR, we investigated the effect on ssON on LL-37-induced inflammation. We reveal that both mast cell degranulation and calcium influx in MRGPRX2 transfected HEK293 cells, induced by the antimicrobial peptide LL-37 and the basic secretagogue C48/80, are effectively inhibited by ssON in a dose-dependent manner. Further, ssON demonstrates a capability to inhibit LL-37 and C48/80 activation in two mouse models. We show that intradermal injection of ssON in mice is able to block itch induced via C48/80 in a dose-dependent manner. Histological staining revealed that ssON inhibits acute mast cell degranulation in murine skin treated with C48/80. Lastly, we show that ssON treatment ameliorates LL-37-induced inflammation in a rosacea mouse model. Since there is a need for new therapeutics targeting non-IgE-mediated activation of mast cells, ssON could be used as a prospective drug candidate to resolve itch and inflammation in certain dermatoses.

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The Neuropeptide Y Y2 receptor is co-expressed with Nppb in primary afferent neurons and Y2 activation reduces histaminergic and IL-31-induced itch.

Itch stimuli are detected by specialized primary afferents, which convey the signal to the spinal cord, but how itch transmission is regulated is still incompletely known. Here, we investigated the roles of the neuropeptide Y (NPY)/Y2 receptor system on scratch behavior. The inhibitory Y2 receptor is expressed on mouse primary afferents and intrathecal administration of the Y2 agonist peptide YY (PYY)3-36 reduced scratch episode frequency and duration induced by compound 48/80, an effect that could be reversed by intrathecal pre-administration of the Y2 antagonist BIIE0246. Also, scratch episode duration induced by histamine could be reduced by PYY3-36. In contrast, scratch behavior induced by α-methyl-5HT, SLIGRL, chloroquine, topical dust mite extract, or mechanical itch induced by von Frey filaments was unaffected by stimulation of Y2. Primary afferent neurons expressing the Npy2r gene were found to co-express itch-associated markers such as natriuretic peptide precursor b, oncostatin M receptor and interleukin (IL) 31 receptor A. Accordingly, intrathecal PYY3-36 reduced the scratch behavior induced by IL-31. Our findings imply that the NPY/Y2 system reduces histaminergic and IL-31-associated itch through presynaptic inhibition of a subpopulation of itch-associated primary afferents. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The spinal neuropeptide Y system dampens scratching behavior induced by histaminergic compounds and interleukin 31, a cytokine involved in atopic dermatitis, through interactions with the Y2 receptor. The Y2 receptor is expressed by primary afferent neurons that are rich in itch-associated neurotransmitters and receptors such as somatostatin, natriuretic peptide precursor b and interlekin 31 receptors.

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