Volume 49 (2016) Issue 6 Pages 181-190
Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) has recently been identified as an itch-signaling molecule in the primary afferents and spinal cord of rodents. However, little information exists on the expression and localization of GRP in the trigeminal somatosensory system other than in rats. We examined the generality of the trigeminal GRP system in mammals using two distinct species, suncus as a model of specialized placental mammals known to have a well-developed trigeminal sensory system and mice as a representative small laboratory animal. We first analyzed the gross morphology of the trigeminal somatosensory system in suncus to provide a brainstem atlas on which to map GRP distribution. Immunohistochemical analyses showed that 8% of trigeminal ganglion neurons in suncus and 6% in mice expressed GRP. Expression was restricted to cells with smaller somata. The GRP-containing fibers were densely distributed in the superficial layers of the caudal part of the trigeminal spinal nucleus (Vc) but rare in the rostral parts, both in suncus and mice. Expression of GRP receptor mRNA and protein was also detected in the Vc of suncus. Taken together, these results suggest that the trigeminal GRP system mediating itch sensation is conserved in mammals.