Itch Signals Transmitted Differently in Hairy vs Non-Hairy Skin Interview with:
Haley Steele

Graduate Student Researcher
Georgia Institute of Technology What is the background for this study?

Response: Chronic itch is a debilitating symptom that arises from a broad range of etiologies including skin disease, systemic disease, and as a common side-effect of medication. While in the last few decades significant advances in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying chronic itch have been made, a large majority of those advancements were restricted to studies in hairy skin.

Conditions such as plantar and palmar psoriasis, dyshidrosis, and cholestasis, however, are known to exhibit chronic itch restricted primarily to glabrous skin (found on the palms of hands and soles of feet). This is an area that is considered to be particularly debilitating. Therefore, in this study we investigated the role three previously identified pruriceptive neurons (MrgprA3+, MrgprD+, and MrgprC11+) play in mediating acute and chronic glabrous skin itch. What are the main findings?

Response: Our results demonstrate that MrgprA3+ and MrgprD+ neurons, although previously identified as key mediators for hairy skin itch, do not play an important role in glabrous skin itch. Specifically, we found that MrgprA3+ neurons only very sparsely innervate glabrous skin, while specific activation of MrgprD+ neurons, which do densely innervate glabrous skin, does not induce glabrous skin itch

In contrast, our results show that MrgprC11+ neurons are major mediators for acute and chronic glabrous skin itch. Specifically, we demonstrate that direct activation of MrgprC11+ neurons induces glabrous skin itch, while ablation of MrgprC11+ neurons significantly reduces both acute and chronic glabrous skin itch. What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: Our results, for the first time demonstrate that hairy skin and glabrous skin use different populations of primary sensory neurons to mediate itch sensation. In hairy skin, MrgprA3+, MrgprD+, and MrgprC11+ neurons are all involved in the transmission of itch sensation. However, in glabrous skin, only MrgprC11+ neurons mediate itch. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Given these results, future studies are needed to determine if there are additional mechanistic differences between hairy and glabrous skin itch. Furthermore, future therapeutic efforts for the treatment of chronic itch in glabrous skin should focus on MrgprC11+ neurons.

No disclosures


MrgprC11+ sensory neurons mediate glabrous skin itch

Haley R. Steele, Yanyan Xing, Yuyan Zhu, Henry B. Hilley, Katy Lawson, Yeseul Nho, Taylor Niehoff, Liang Han

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2021, 118 (15) e2022874118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2022874118



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Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD