Scientific reports

Neurochemical characterization of pERK-expressing spinal neurons in histamine-induced itch.

PMID 26248539


Acute itch is divided into histamine- and non-histamine-dependent subtypes, and our previous study has shown that activation of ERK signaling in the spinal dorsal horn (SDH) is required selectively for histamine-induced itch sensation. Morphological characteristics of pERK-expressing neurons are required for exploring the mechanism underlying spinal itch sensation. To investigate whether pERK-expressing neurons are supraspinally-projecting neurons, we injected Fluorogold (FG) into the ventrobasal thalamic complex (VB) and parabrachial region, the two major spinal ascending sites in rodents. A small number (1%) of pERK-positive neurons were labeled by FG, suggesting that histamine-induced activation of ERK is primarily located in local SDH neurons. We then examined the co-localization of pERK with Calbindin and Lmx1b, which are expressed by excitatory neurons, and found that more than half (58%) of pERK-positive neurons expressed Lmx1b, but no co-expression with Calbindin was observed. On the other hand, approximately 7% of pERK-positive neurons expressed GAD67, and 27% of them contained Pax2. These results support the idea that pERK-expressing neurons serve as a component of local neuronal circuits for processing itch sensation in the spinal cord.