Yu G, Yang N, Li F, Chen M, Guo CJ, Wang C, Hu D, Yang Y, Zhu C, Wang Z, Shi H, Gegen T, Tang M, He Q, Liu Q* , Tang Z* (* co-corresponding). Enhanced itch elicited by capsaicin in a chronic itch model. Molecular pain. 2016; 12. PubMed [journal] PMID: 27118771,PMCID: PMC4956172
Chronic itch (pruritus) is an important clinical problem. However, the underlying molecular basis has yet to be understood. The Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 channel is a heat-sensitive cation channel expressed in primary sensory neurons and involved in both thermosensation and pain, but its role in chronic itch remains elusive. Here, we for the first time revealed an increased innervation density of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1-expressing sensory fibers in the skin afflicted with chronic itch. Further analysis indicated that this phenomenon is due to an expansion of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1-expressing sensory neurons under chronic itch conditions. As a functional correlates of this neuronal expansion, we observed an enhanced neuronal responsiveness to capsaicin under the dry skin conditions. Importantly, the neuronal hypersensitivity to capsaicin results in itch, rather than pain sensation, suggesting that the up-regulated Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 underlies the pain-to-itch switch under chronic itchy conditions. The study shows that there are different mechanisms of chronic pain and itching, and Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 plays an important role in chronic itch.