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Papers of the Week


January 27, 2023


J Neurosci


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/36653189?dopt=Abstract

Excitatory projections from the prefrontal cortex to nucleus accumbens core D1-MSNs and kappa opioid receptor modulate itch-related scratching behaviors.

Authors

Abstract

Itch is an uncomfortable and complex sensation that elicits the desire to scratch. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) activity is important in driving sensation, motivation, and emotion. Excitatory afferents from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), amygdala, and hippocampus are crucial in tuning the activity of dopamine receptor D1- and D2-expressing medium spiny neurons (Drd1- and Drd2-MSNs) in the NAc. However, a cell-type and neural circuity-based mechanism of the NAc underlying acute itch remains unclear. We found that acute itch induced by compound 48/80 (C48/80) decreased the intrinsic membrane excitability in Drd1-MSNs, but not in Drd2-MSNs in the NAc core of male mice. Chemogenetic activation of Drd1-MSNs alleviated C48/80-induced scratching behaviors, but not itch-related anxiety-like behaviors. In addition, C48/80 enhanced the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) and reduced the paired-pulse ratio of electrical stimulation-evoked EPSCs in Drd1-MSNs. Furthermore, C48/80 increased excitatory synaptic afferents to Drd1-MSNs from the mPFC, not from the basolateral amygdala or ventral hippocampus. Consistently, the intrinsic excitability of mPFC-NAc projecting pyramidal neurons was increased after C48/80 treatment. Chemogenetic inhibition of mPFC-NAc excitatory synaptic afferents relieved the scratching behaviors. Moreover, pharmacological activation of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) in the NAc core suppressed C48/80-induced scratching behaviors, and the modulation of KOR activity in the NAc resulted in the changes of presynaptic excitatory inputs to Drd1-MSNs in C48/80-treated mice. Together, these results reveal the neural plasticity in synapses of NAc Drd1-MSNs from the mPFC underlying acute itch and indicate the modulatory role of the KOR in itch-related scratching behaviors.Itch stimuli cause strongly scratching desire and anxiety in patients. However, the related neural mechanisms remain largely unclear. In the present study, we demonstrated that the pruritogen compound 48/80 (C48/80) shapes the excitability of dopamine receptor D1-expressing medium spiny neurons (Drd1-MSNs) in the NAc core and the glutamatergic synaptic afferents from medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to these neurons. Chemogenetic activation of Drd1-MSNs or inhibition of mPFC-NAc excitatory synaptic afferents relieves the scratching behaviors. In addition, pharmacological activation of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) in the NAc core alleviates C48/80-induced itch. Thus, targeting mPFC-NAc Drd1-MSNs or KOR may provide effective treatments for itch.