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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Jun 2023 - 30 Jun 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Itch, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jun 24

Mol Neurobiol


Glutamatergic Neurons in the Zona Incerta Modulate Pain and Itch Behaviors in Mice.


Li J, Peng S, Zhang Y, Ge J, Gao S, Zhu Y, Bai Y, Wu S, Huang J


Emerging evidence suggest that parvalbumin neurons in zona incerta (ZI) modulate pain and itch behavior in opposite manners. However, the role of ZI glutamatergic neurons, a unique incertal neuronal subpopulation residing in the caudal division, in pain and itch modulation remains unknown. In the present study, by combining chemogenetic manipulation, fiber photometry, and behavioral tests, we proved that incertal glutamatergic neurons served as an endogenous negative diencephalic modulator for both pain and itch processing. We demonstrated that ZI vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGluT2) neurons exhibited increased calcium signal upon hindpaw withdrawal in response to experimental mechanical and thermal stimuli. Behavioral tests further showed that pharmacogenetic activation of this specific type of neurons reduced nocifensive withdrawal responses in both naïve and inflammatory pain mice. Similar neural activity and modulatory role of ZI VGluT2 neurons were also observed upon histaminergic and non-histaminergic acute itch stimuli. Together, our study would expedite our understandings of brain mechanisms underlying somatosensory processing and modulation, and supply a novel therapeutic target for the management of chronic pain and itch disorders.