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Science. 2018 May 4;360(6388):530-533. doi: 10.1126/science.aar5703.

Piezo2 channel-Merkel cell signaling modulates the conversion of touch to itch.

Feng J1, Luo J1, Yang P1, Du J2, Kim BS1,3,4, Hu H5.

Author information

1
Department of Anesthesiology, Center for the Study of Itch, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
2
Department of Pathology and Immunology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
3
Department of Dermatology, Center for the Study of Itch, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
4
Deparment of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
5
Department of Anesthesiology, Center for the Study of Itch, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. hongzhen.hu@wustl.edu.

Abstract

The somatosensory system relays many signals ranging from light touch to pain and itch. Touch is critical to spatial awareness and communication. However, in disease states, innocuous mechanical stimuli can provoke pathologic sensations such as mechanical itch (alloknesis). The molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern this conversion remain unknown. We found that in mice, alloknesis in aging and dry skin is associated with a loss of Merkel cells, the touch receptors in the skin. Targeted genetic deletion of Merkel cells and associated mechanosensitive Piezo2 channels in the skin was sufficient to produce alloknesis. Chemogenetic activation of Merkel cells protected against alloknesis in dry skin. This study reveals a previously unknown function of the cutaneous touch receptors and may provide insight into the development of alloknesis.

PMID:
29724954
PMCID:
PMC6114129
DOI:
10.1126/science.aar5703
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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