Molecular and cellular mechanisms that initiate pain and itch

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Sep;72(17):3201-23. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-1904-4. Epub 2015 Apr 18.


Somatosensory neurons mediate our sense of touch. They are critically involved in transducing pain and itch sensations under physiological and pathological conditions, along with other skin-resident cells. Tissue damage and inflammation can produce a localized or systemic sensitization of our senses of pain and itch, which can facilitate our detection of threats in the environment. Although acute pain and itch protect us from further damage, persistent pain and itch are debilitating. Recent exciting discoveries have significantly advanced our knowledge of the roles of membrane-bound G protein-coupled receptors and ion channels in the encoding of information leading to pain and itch sensations. This review focuses on molecular and cellular events that are important in early stages of the biological processing that culminates in our senses of pain and itch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • TRPM Cation Channels / metabolism


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • TRPM Cation Channels