Sunburn, wound repair, and chronic renal failure with hemodialysis are usually accompanied by both pigmentation and itching. Proopiomelanocortin-derived α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) is produced in response to external stimuli, such as UV irradiation, and is involved in cutaneous pigmentation. However, it is unclear whether α-MSH is also involved in the itching. We therefore investigated whether α-MSH elicited itch-related responses in mice. We found that an intradermal injection of α-MSH induced hind-paw scratching, an itch-related response, in mice. The α-MSH-induced scratching was inhibited by the μ-opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone and the H1 histamine receptor antagonist terfenadine. In mast cell-deficient mice, α-MSH also elicited scratching, which was inhibited by terfenadine. The immunoreactivity for l-histidine decarboxylase, a key enzyme required for the production of histamine, histamine, and the melanocortin 1 and 5 receptors were shown in not only mast cells but also keratinocytes in murine skin. In addition to the expression of l-histidine decarboxylase and melanocortin 1 and 5 receptors, the mouse keratinocyte cell lines (Pam212) also showed immunoreactivity for l-histidine decarboxylase, histamine, and melanocortin 1 and 5 receptors. The application of α-MSH induced the release of histamine from Pam212 cells. These findings indicate that α-MSH may play an important role in the itching associated with pigmented cutaneous lesions and that the histamine released from keratinocytes is involved in this α-MSH-induced itching.
Shimizu, K., Andoh, T., Yoshihisa, Y., & Shimizu, T. (2015). Histamine released from epidermal keratinocytes plays a role in α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone-induced itching in mice. American Journal of Pathology, 185(11), 3003–3010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.07.015