Munanairi A, Liu XY, Barry DM, Yang Q, Yin JB, Jin H, Li H, Meng QT, Peng JH, Wu ZY, Yin J, Zhou XY, Wan L, Mo P, Kim S, Huo FQ, Jeffry J, Li YQ, Bardoni R, Bruchas MR, Chen ZF. Cell Report. 2018 Apr 17;23(3):866-877. PMID: 29669290


Chronic itch or pruritus is a debilitating disorder that is refractory to conventional anti-histamine treatment. Kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonists have been used to treat chronic itch, but the underlying mechanism remains elusive. Here, we find that KOR and gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) overlap in the spinal cord, and KOR activation attenuated GRPR-mediated histamine-independent acute and chronic itch in mice. Notably, canonical KOR-mediated Gαi signaling is not required for desensitizing GRPR function. In vivo and in vitro studies suggest that KOR activation results in the translocation of Ca2+-independent protein kinase C (PKC)δ from the cytosol to the plasma membrane, which in turn phosphorylates and inhibits GRPR activity. A blockade of phospholipase C (PLC) in HEK293 cells prevented KOR-agonist-induced PKCδ translocation and GRPR phosphorylation, suggesting a role of PLC signaling in KOR-mediated GRPR desensitization. These data suggest that a KOR-PLC-PKCδ-GRPR signaling pathway in the spinal cord may underlie KOR-agonists-induced anti-pruritus therapies.

 Zhou-Feng Chen  Chen Lab  PubMed