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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Apr 2023 - 28 Apr 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Itch, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Apr 22

Gen Comp Endocrinol


Chronic corticosterone exposure evokes itch hypersensitivity and sexual dysfunction in male rats: relationship between the two distinct gastrin-releasing peptide systems in the spinal cord.


Takanami K, Morishita M, Sakamoto T, Sakamoto H


In today’s society, people are subjected to many social stressors, and excessive chronic stress causes functional disruption of the neuroendocrine system and many diseases. Although the exacerbation of atopic dermatitis with symptoms of itching and erectile dysfunction is induced by chronic stress, the details of the mechanisms are unknown. Here, we examined the effects of chronic stress on itch sensation and male sexual function at the behavioral and molecular levels, focusing on two distinct gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) systems that independently regulate itch transmission, i.e., the somatosensory GRP system, and male sexual function, i.e., the lumbosacral autonomic GRP system, in the spinal cord. In a rat model of chronic stress induced by chronic corticosterone (CORT) administration, we observed increased plasma CORT concentrations, decreased body weight, and increased anxiety-like behavior, similar to that observed in humans. Chronic CORT exposure induced hypersensitivity to itch and increased the Grp mRNA level in the spinal somatosensory system, but there was no change in pain or tactile sensitivity. Antagonists of the somatosensory GRP receptor, an itch-specific mediator, suppressed itch hypersensitivity induced by chronic CORT exposure. In contrast, chronic CORT exposure decreased male sexual behavior, ejaculated semen volume, vesicular gland weight, and plasma testosterone levels. However, there were no effects on the expression of Grp mRNA or protein in the lumbosacral autonomic GRP system, which regulates male sexual function. In summary, chronic stress model rats showed itch hypersensitivity and impaired sexual function in males, and the involvement of the spinal GRP systems was apparent in itch hypersensitivity.