During the previous grant period, we found that topical, intradermal application of cowhage spicules induces itch by non-histaminergic mechanisms. Electrophysiological recordings from unmyelinated (C-fiber) and myelinated (A-fiber) afferents in peripheral nerves revealed that histamine and cowhage activate different peripheral pathways. For C-fibers, mechano-insensitive afferents (MIAs) were activated by histamine but not cowhage, whereas mechanosensitive nociceptive afferents (MSAs) were responsive to both, but the responses to cowhage were substantially greater. Similarly, histamine but not cowhage activated A-fiber MIAs, whereas A-fiber MSAs responded to cowhage or histamine or both. Again, the responses to cowhage were significantly greater than the responses to histamine. These findings indicate that the sensation of itch can be mediated through multiple afferent pathways. The proposed electrophysiological experiments will help to determine the relative roles of these different classes of afferents in signaling the different sensations associated with the pruritic stimuli. Specifically, we propose: 1) To determine whether pruriceptive and/or nociceptive selective classes of MIAs exist by investigating the responsiveness of A- and C-fiber MIAs to pruritic and algesic stimuli. 2) To investigate a potential peripheral mechanism for scratch induced itch relief or itch relieve by application of thermal stimuli. We will determine if application of such stimuli leads to a decrement in the response to pruritic stimuli of A-fiber and C-fiber MSAs. Preliminary results reveal significant fatigue in the responses of C-MSAs to cowhage after mechanical stimulation. 3) To investigate the differential chemosensitivity of nociceptive and pruriceptive small-diameter afferents using a novel application technique, i.e. heat-inactivated, cowhage-spicules shown in project 1 to cause itch and pain when loaded with chemicals including capsaicin, histamine and non-histaminergic pruritic agents such as cysteine proteases. We postulate that different populations of small myelinated and unmyelinated MSAs mediate the sensation of itch and pain produced by these stimuli. The results from these studies will enhance our understanding of the peripheral neuronal apparatus underlying the sensation of itch and pain.

Public Health Relevance

(See Instructions): Itch that is resistant to treatment, for example with antihistamines, is a major clinical problem. The proposed studies will increase our understanding about how the sensation of itch is mediated in the nerve fibers of the skin. The findings of these studies may potentially lead to the development of better strategies for the treatment of itch.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Initial Review Group (NSD)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Yale University
New Haven
United States
Zip Code
Moser, H R; Giesler Jr, G J (2014) Itch elicited by intradermal injection of serotonin, intracisternal injection of morphine, and their synergistic interactions in rats. Neuroscience 274:119-27
Qu, Lintao; Fan, Ni; Ma, Chao et al. (2014) Enhanced excitability of MRGPRA3- and MRGPRD-positive nociceptors in a model of inflammatory itch and pain. Brain 137:1039-50
LaMotte, Robert H; Dong, Xinzhong; Ringkamp, Matthias (2014) Sensory neurons and circuits mediating itch. Nat Rev Neurosci 15:19-31
Ringkamp, Matthias; Raja, Srinivasa N (2014) A sore spot: central or peripheral generation of chronic neuropathic spontaneous pain? Pain 155:1189-91
Moser, Hannah R; Giesler Jr, Glenn J (2014) Characterization of pruriceptive trigeminothalamic tract neurons in rats. J Neurophysiol 111:1574-89
Wooten, Matthew; Weng, Hao-Jui; Hartke, Timothy V et al. (2014) Three functionally distinct classes of C-fibre nociceptors in primates. Nat Commun 5:4122
Moser, Hannah R; Giesler Jr, Glenn J (2013) Itch and analgesia resulting from intrathecal application of morphine: contrasting effects on different populations of trigeminothalamic tract neurons. J Neurosci 33:6093-101
Han, Liang; Ma, Chao; Liu, Qin et al. (2013) A subpopulation of nociceptors specifically linked to itch. Nat Neurosci 16:174-82
Sikand, Parul; Dong, Xinzhong; LaMotte, Robert H (2011) BAM8-22 peptide produces itch and nociceptive sensations in humans independent of histamine release. J Neurosci 31:7563-7
LaMotte, Robert H; Shimada, Steven G; Sikand, Parul (2011) Mouse models of acute, chemical itch and pain in humans. Exp Dermatol 20:778-82

Showing the most recent 10 out of 28 publications