Patients with cholestatic disease exhibit pruritus and analgesia, but the mechanisms underlying these symptoms are unknown. We report that bile acids, which are elevated in the circulation and tissues during cholestasis, cause itch and analgesia by activating the GPCR TGR5. TGR5 was detected in peptidergic neurons of mouse dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord that transmit itch and pain, and in dermal macrophages that contain opioids. Bile acids and a TGR5-selective agonist induced hyperexcitability of dorsal root ganglia neurons and stimulated the release of the itch and analgesia transmitters gastrin-releasing peptide and leucine-enkephalin. Intradermal injection of bile acids and a TGR5-selective agonist stimulated scratching behavior by gastrin-releasing peptide– and opioid-dependent mechanisms in mice. Scratching was attenuated in
Farzad Alemi, Edwin Kwon, Daniel P. Poole, TinaMarie Lieu, Victoria Lyo, Fiore Cattaruzza, Ferda Cevikbas, Martin Steinhoff, Romina Nassini, Serena Materazzi, Raquel Guerrero-Alba, Eduardo Valdez-Morales, Graeme S. Cottrell, Kristina Schoonjans, Pierangelo Geppetti, Stephen J. Vanner, Nigel W. Bunnett, Carlos U. Corvera
TGR5 expression and localization in mouse DRG.