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The majority of dorsal spinal cord gastrin releasing peptide is synthesized locally whereas neuromedin B is highly expressed in pain- and itch-sensing somatosensory neurons

Michael S Fleming1, Daniel Ramos1, Seung Baek Han2, Jianyuan Zhao3, Young-Jin Son2 and Wenqin Luo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 145 Johnson Pavilion, 3610 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA

2 Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center, Temple University School of Medicine, 3500 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19140-5104, USA

3 Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1721 E. Madison St, Baltimore, MD, 21205, USA

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Molecular Pain 2012, 8:52  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-8-52

Published: 9 July 2012



Itch is one of the major somatosensory modalities. Some recent findings have proposed that gastrin releasing peptide (Grp) is expressed in a subset of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and functions as a selective neurotransmitter for transferring itch information to spinal cord interneurons. However, expression data from public databases and earlier literatures indicate that Grp mRNA is only detected in dorsal spinal cord (dSC) whereas its family member neuromedin B (Nmb) is highly expressed in DRG neurons. These contradictory results argue that a thorough characterization of the expression of Grp and Nmb is warranted.


Grp mRNA is highly expressed in dSC but is barely detectable in DRGs of juvenile and adult mice. Anti-bombesin serum specifically recognizes Grp but not Nmb. Grp is present in a small number of small-diameter DRG neurons and in abundance in layers I and II of the spinal cord. The reduction of dSC Grp after dorsal root rhizotomy is significantly different from those of DRG derived markers but similar to that of a spinal cord neuronal marker. Double fluorescent in situ of Nmb and other molecular markers indicate that Nmb is highly and selectively expressed in nociceptive and itch-sensitive DRG neurons.


The majority of dSC Grp is synthesized locally in dorsal spinal cord neurons. On the other hand, Nmb is highly expressed in pain- and itch-sensing DRG neurons. Our findings provide direct anatomic evidence that Grp could function locally in the dorsal spinal cord in addition to its roles in DRG neurons and that Nmb has potential roles in nociceptive and itch-sensitive neurons. These results will improve our understanding about roles of Grp and Nmb in mediating itch sensation.

Gastrin releasing peptide; Neuromedin B; Itch; Dorsal root ganglion; Spinal cord