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

Guan-Yu Jiang, Meng-Han Dai, Kun Huang, Guo-Dong Chai, Jia-Yin Chen, Ling Chen, Bing Lang, Qing-Xiu Wang, David St Clair, Colin McCaig, Yu-Qiang Ding*, Ling Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12787
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date7 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2015


  • gastrin-releasing-peptide
  • receptor-like immunoreactivity
  • spinothalamic-tract neurons
  • lamina-I projection
  • substance-P
  • cord
  • rat
  • interneurons
  • cells
  • mouse


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