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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 27

Mol Brain




The lateral habenula nucleus regulates pruritic sensation and emotion.


Chen R, Xu X, Wang XY, Jia WB, Zhao DS, Liu N, Pang Z, Liu XQ, Zhang Y


Itch is a complex aversive sensory and emotional experience. As a most upsetting symptom in many dermatological and systemic diseases, it lacks efficient treatments. The lateral habenula nucleus (LHb) encodes negative emotions in the epithalamus and has been implicated in pain and analgesia. Nevertheless, the role of the lateral habenula nucleus in the pruritic sensation and emotion remains elusive. Here we defined the crucial role of glutamatergic neurons within the lateral habenula nucleus (Glu) in itch modulation in mice. We established histamine-dependent and histamine-independent models of acute pruritus, as well as the acetone-ether-water (AEW) model of chronic pruritus. We first assessed the effects of pruritogen injection on neural activation in both medial and lateral divisions of LHb in vitro. We then demonstrated that the population activity of Glu neurons was increased during the acute itch and chronic itch-induced scratching behaviors in vivo. In addition, electrophysiological data showed that the excitability of Glu neurons was enhanced by chronic itch. Chemogenetic suppression of Glu neurons disrupted both acute and chronic itch-evoked scratching behaviors. Furthermore, itch-induced conditioned place aversion (CPA) was abolished by Glu neuronal inhibition. Finally, we dissected the LHb upstream brain regions. Together, these findings reveal the involvement of LHb in processing both the sensational and emotional components of pruritus and may shed new insights into itch therapy.