Chronic itch development in sensory neurons requires BRAF signaling pathways Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Pruritus
  • Sensory Receptor Cells


  • Chronic itch, or pruritus, is associated with a wide range of skin abnormalities. The mechanisms responsible for chronic itch induction and persistence remain unclear. We developed a mouse model in which a constitutively active form of the serine/threonine kinase BRAF was expressed in neurons gated by the sodium channel Nav1.8 (BRAF(Nav1.8) mice). We found that constitutive BRAF pathway activation in BRAF(Nav1.8) mice results in ectopic and enhanced expression of a cohort of itch-sensing genes, including gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and MAS-related GPCR member A3 (MRGPRA3), in nociceptors expressing transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). BRAF(Nav1.8) mice showed de novo neuronal responsiveness to pruritogens, enhanced pruriceptor excitability, and heightened evoked and spontaneous scratching behavior. GRP receptor expression was increased in the spinal cord, indicating augmented coding capacity for itch subsequent to amplified pruriceptive inputs. Enhanced GRP expression and sustained ERK phosphorylation were observed in sensory neurons of mice with allergic contact dermatitis– or dry skin–elicited itch; however, spinal ERK activation was not required for maintaining central sensitization of itch. Inhibition of either BRAF or GRP signaling attenuated itch sensation in chronic itch mouse models. These data uncover RAF/MEK/ERK signaling as a key regulator that confers a subset of nociceptors with pruriceptive properties to initiate and maintain long-lasting itch sensation.

publication date

  • November 2013



  • Academic Article



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC3809799

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1172/JCI70528

PubMed ID

  • 24216512

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 4769

end page

  • 80


  • 123


  • 11