Dorsal horn neurons expressing NK-1 receptors mediate scratching in rats

Earl Carstens, Mirela Iodi Carstens, Christopher T. Simons, Steven L. Jinks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Itch is thought to be signaled by pruritogen-responsive neurons in the superficial spinal dorsal horn. Many neurons here express the substance P NK-1 receptor. We investigated whether neurotoxic destruction of spinal NK-1-expressing neurons affected itch-related scratching behavior. Rats received intracisternal substance P conjugated to saporin (SP-SAP), or saporin (SAP) only (controls), and were subsequently tested for scratching behavior elicited by intradermal 5-hydroxytryptamine. SAP controls exhibited dose-related hindlimb scratching, which was significantly attenuated in SP-SAP-treated rats. There was a virtual absence of NK-1 immunoreactive neurons in superficial laminae of the upper cervical and medullary dorsal horn in SP-SAP-treated rats. These results indicate that superficial dorsal horn neurons expressing NK-1 receptors play a key role in spinal itch transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-308
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Itch
  • Scratching
  • Serotonin
  • Substance P-saporin
  • Superficial dorsal horn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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