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      Spinal Neuropeptide Y1 Receptor-Expressing Neurons Form an Essential Excitatory Pathway for Mechanical Itch

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          Acute itch can be generated by either chemical or mechanical stimuli, which activate separate pathways in the periphery and spinal cord. While substantial progress has been made in mapping the transmission pathway for chemical itch, the central pathway for mechanical itch remains obscure. Using complementary genetic and pharmacological manipulations, we show that excitatory neurons marked by the expression of the neuropeptide Y1 receptor (Y1 Cre neurons) form an essential pathway in the dorsal spinal cord for the transmission of mechanical but not chemical itch. Ablating or silencing the Y1 Cre neurons abrogates mechanical itch, while chemogenetic activation induces scratching. Moreover, using Y1 conditional knockout mice, we demonstrate that endogenous neuropeptide Y (NPY) acts via dorsal horn Y1-expressing neurons to suppress light punctate touch and mechanical itch stimuli. NPY-Y1 signaling thus regulates the transmission of innocuous tactile information by establishing biologically relevant thresholds for touch discrimination and mechanical itch reflexes.

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          In Brief

          Acton et al. identify the excitatory neurons in the dorsal spinal cord that drive mechanical itch. These cells mediate responses to light punctate touch and are inhibited by neuropeptide Y (NPY)::Cre interneurons. Light touch sensitivity and mechanical itch responses are gated by NPY signaling mediated by Y1-expressing neurons in the dorsal horn.

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          Most cited references 97

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          A robust and high-throughput Cre reporting and characterization system for the whole mouse brain

          The Cre/lox system is widely used in mice to achieve cell-type-specific gene expression. However, a strong and universal responding system to express genes under Cre control is still lacking. We have generated a set of Cre reporter mice with strong, ubiquitous expression of fluorescent proteins of different spectra. The robust native fluorescence of these reporters enables direct visualization of fine dendritic structures and axonal projections of the labeled neurons, which is useful in mapping neuronal circuitry, imaging and tracking specific cell populations in vivo. Using these reporters and a high-throughput in situ hybridization platform, we are systematically profiling Cre-directed gene expression throughout the mouse brain in a number of Cre-driver lines, including novel Cre lines targeting different cell types in the cortex. Our expression data are displayed in a public online database to help researchers assess the utility of various Cre-driver lines for cell-type-specific genetic manipulation.
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            Quantitative assessment of tactile allodynia in the rat paw.

             J Pogrel,  F. Bach,  T L Yaksh (1994)
            We applied and validated a quantitative allodynia assessment technique, using a recently developed rat surgical neuropathy model wherein nocifensive behaviors are evoked by light touch to the paw. Employing von Frey hairs from 0.41 to 15.1 g, we first characterized the percent response at each stimulus intensity. A smooth log-linear relationship was observed, with a median 50% threshold at 1.97 g (95% confidence limits, 1.12-3.57 g). Subsequently, we applied a paradigm using stimulus oscillation around the response threshold, which allowed more rapid, efficient measurements. Median 50% threshold by this up-down method was 2.4 g (1.81-2.76). Correlation coefficient between the two methods was 0.91. In neuropathic rats, good intra- and inter-observer reproducibility was found for the up-down paradigm; some variability was seen in normal rats, attributable to extensive testing. Thresholds in a sizable group of neuropathic rats showed insignificant variability over 20 days. After 50 days, 61% still met strict neuropathy criteria, using survival analysis. Threshold measurement using the up-down paradigm, in combination with the neuropathic pain model, represents a powerful tool for analyzing the effects of manipulations of the neuropathic pain state.
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              A resource of Cre driver lines for genetic targeting of GABAergic neurons in cerebral cortex.

              A key obstacle to understanding neural circuits in the cerebral cortex is that of unraveling the diversity of GABAergic interneurons. This diversity poses general questions for neural circuit analysis: how are these interneuron cell types generated and assembled into stereotyped local circuits and how do they differentially contribute to circuit operations that underlie cortical functions ranging from perception to cognition? Using genetic engineering in mice, we have generated and characterized approximately 20 Cre and inducible CreER knockin driver lines that reliably target major classes and lineages of GABAergic neurons. More select populations are captured by intersection of Cre and Flp drivers. Genetic targeting allows reliable identification, monitoring, and manipulation of cortical GABAergic neurons, thereby enabling a systematic and comprehensive analysis from cell fate specification, migration, and connectivity, to their functions in network dynamics and behavior. As such, this approach will accelerate the study of GABAergic circuits throughout the mammalian brain. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Cell Rep
                Cell Rep
                Cell reports
                7 August 2019
                16 July 2019
                26 August 2019
                : 28
                : 3
                : 625-639.e6
                [1 ]Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
                [2 ]Biology Graduate Program, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
                [3 ]Department of Neuroscience, University of Torino, Neuroscience Institute of the Cavalieri-Ottolenghi Foundation, Regione Gonzole 1, 10043 Orbassano, Italy
                [4 ]Present address: Université de la Réunion, Dé Troi, UMR 1188 INSERM, 2 Rue Maxime Rivière, 97490 Sainte Clotilde, France
                [5 ]Lead Contact
                Author notes


                D.A., S.D.C., X.R., A.D., S.B., and M.G. all contributed to the experimental analyses. I.B. and C.E. generated the Y1 receptor conditional mutant mice that were used in this study. D.A. and M.G. designed the experiments and wrote the manuscript.

                [* ]Correspondence: goulding@

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (


                Cell biology


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