Recent studies have suggested the existence of separate transduction mechanisms and sensory pathways for histamine and nonhistaminergic types of itch. We studied whether histamine and an agonist of the protease-activated receptor (PAR)-2, associated with nonhistaminergic itch, excite murine dorsal horn neurons. Single units were recorded in superficial lumbar dorsal horn of adult ICR mice anesthetized with pentobarbital. Unit activity was searched using a small intradermal hindpaw injection of histamine or the PAR-2 agonist SLIGRL-NH2. Isolated units were subsequently challenged with intradermal histamine followed by SLIGRL-NH2 (each 50 μg/1 μl) or reverse order, followed by mechanical, thermal, and algogenic stimuli. Forty-three units were classified as wide dynamic range (62%), nociceptive specific (22%), or mechano insensitive (16%). Twenty units gave prolonged (mean, 10 min) discharges to intradermal injection of histamine; 76% responded to subsequent SLIGRL-NH2, often more briefly. Units additionally responded to noxious heat (63%), cooling (43%), topical mustard oil (53%), and intradermal capsaicin (67%). Twenty-two other units gave prolonged (mean, 5 min) responses to initial intradermal injection of SLIGRL-NH2; 85% responded to subsequent intradermal histamine. They also responded to noxious heat (75%), mustard oil (93%), capsaicin (63%), and one to cooling. Most superficial dorsal horn neurons were excited by both histamine and the PAR-2 agonist, suggesting overlapping pathways for histamine- and non-histamine-mediated itch. Because the large majority of pruritogen-responsive neurons also responded to noxious stimuli, itch may be signaled at least partly by a population code.
ASJC Scopus subject areas