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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jul 2023 - 4 Aug 2023

2023 Jul 31



Descending dopaminergic pathway facilitates itch signal processing via activating spinal GRPR neurons.


Zhang ZJ, Shao HY, Liu C, Song HL, Wu XB, Cao DL, Zhu M, Fu YY, Wang J, Gao YJ


A11 dopaminergic neurons regulate somatosensory transduction by projecting from the diencephalon to the spinal cord, but the function of this descending projection in itch remained elusive. Here, we report that dopaminergic projection neurons from the A11 nucleus to the spinal dorsal horn (dopaminergic ) are activated by pruritogens. Inhibition of these neurons alleviates itch-induced scratching behaviors. Furthermore, chemogenetic inhibition of spinal dopamine receptor D1-expressing (DRD1 ) neurons decreases acute or chronic itch-induced scratching. Mechanistically, spinal DRD1 neurons are excitatory and mostly co-localize with gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), an endogenous neuropeptide for itch. In addition, DRD1 neurons form synapses with GRP receptor-expressing (GRPR ) neurons and activate these neurons via AMPA receptor (AMPAR). Finally, spontaneous itch and enhanced acute itch induced by activating spinal DRD1 neurons are relieved by antagonists against AMPAR and GRPR. Thus, the descending dopaminergic pathway facilitates spinal itch transmission via activating DRD1 neurons and releasing glutamate and GRP, which directly augments GRPR signaling. Interruption of this descending pathway may be used to treat chronic itch.