Scratching behavior and Fos expression in superficial dorsal horn elicited by protease-activated receptor agonists and other itch mediators in mice

Tasuku Akiyama, Austin W. Merrill, Karen Zanotto, Mirela Iodi Carstens, Earl Carstens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Scopus citations


Protease-activated receptor (PAR)-2 and PAR-4 are implicated in nonhistaminergic itch. We investigated dose dependence, tachyphylaxis, and cross-tachyphylaxis of itch-associated scratching elicited by intradermal injections of PAR-2 and PAR-4 agonists, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), and histamine in ICR mice, as well as μ-opioid modulation of PAR-2 agonist-evoked scratching. Each agent elicited dose-related increases in scratch bouts. Scratching elicited by the PAR-4 agonist and histamine both exhibited significant tachyphylaxis but no cross-tachyphylaxis with each other. Scratching evoked by 5-HT did not exhibit significant tachyphylaxis but did exhibit significant cross-tachyphylaxis to scratching evoked by the PAR-2 and PAR-4 agonists and histamine. Naltrexone and high-dose morphine (10 mg/kg) attenuated PAR-2 agonist-evoked scratching, whereas lower dose morphine (1 mg/kg) had no effect. High-dose morphine also significantly increased circling behavior, which may have interfered with scratching. The PAR-2 agonist and 5-HT produced overlapping distributions of Fos-like immunoreactivity in the superficial dorsal horn. These results indicate that PAR-2 and PAR-4 agonists, histamine, and 5-HT elicit itch-related scratching and activate superficial dorsal horn neurons that may participate in scratch reflex and ascending itch signaling pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-951
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Molecular Medicine

Cite this