Endothelin-1 (ET-1) has been implicated in nonhistaminergic itch. Here we used electrophysiological methods to investigate whether mouse superficial dorsal horn neurons respond to intradermal (id) injection of ET-1 and whether ET-1-sensitive neurons additionally respond to other pruritic and algesic stimuli or spinal superfusion of bombesin, a homolog of gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) that excites spinal itch-signaling neurons. Single-unit recordings were made from lumbar dorsal horn neurons in pentobarbital-anesthetized C57BL/6 mice. We searched for units that exhibited elevated firing after id injection of ET-1 (1 μg/μl). Responsive units were further tested with mechanical stimuli, bombesin (spinal superfusion, 200 μg·ml–1·min–1), heating, cooling, and additional chemicals [histamine, chloroquine, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), capsaicin]. Of 40 ET-1-responsive units, 48% responded to brush and pinch [wide dynamic range (WDR)] and 52% to pinch only [high threshold (HT)]. Ninety-three percent responded to noxious heat, 50% to cooling, and >70% to histamine, chloroquine, AITC, and capsaicin. Fifty-seven percent responded to bombesin, suggesting that they participate in spinal itch transmission. That most ET-1- sensitive spinal neurons also responded to pruritic and algesic stimuli is consistent with previous studies of pruritogen-responsive dorsal horn neurons. We previously hypothesized that pruritogen-sensitive neurons signal itch. The observation that ET-1 activates nociceptive neurons suggests that both itch and pain signals may be generated by ET-1 to result in simultaneous sensations of itch and pain, consistent with observations that ET-1 elicits both itch- and pain-related behaviors in animals and burning itch sensations in humans.
- Superficial dorsal horn
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