Phoenixin: A candidate pruritogen in the mouse

Neuroscience. 2015 Dec 3:310:541-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.09.055. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Phoenixin (PNX) is a 14-amino acid amidated peptide (PNX-14) or an N-terminal extended 20-residue amidated peptide (PNX-20) recently identified in neural and non-neural tissue. Mass spectrometry analysis identified a major peak corresponding to PNX-14, with negligible PNX-20, in mouse spinal cord extracts. Using a previously characterized antiserum that recognized both PNX-14 and PNX-20, PNX-immunoreactivity (irPNX) was detected in a population of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells and in cell processes densely distributed to the superficial layers of the dorsal horn; irPNX cell processes were also detected in the skin. The retrograde tracer, Fluorogold, injected subcutaneously (s.c.) to the back of the cervical and thoracic spinal cord of mice, labeled a population of DRG, some of which were also irPNX. PNX-14 (2, 4 and 8 mg/kg) injected the nape of the neck provoked dose-dependent repetitive scratching bouts directed to the back of the neck with the hindpaws. The number of scratching bouts varied from 16 to 95 in 30 min, commencing within 5 min post-injection and lasted 10-15 min. Pretreatment of mice at -20 min with nalfurafine (20 μg/kg, s.c.), the kappa opioid receptor agonist, significantly reduced the number of bouts induced by PNX-14 (4 mg/kg) compared with that of saline-pretreated mice. Our results suggest that the peptide, PNX-14, serves as one of the endogenous signal molecules transducing itch sensation in the mouse.

Keywords: dorsal root ganglion; itch; kappa opioid receptor; nalfurafine; primary afferent neuron; pruritogen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cervical Cord / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neck / innervation
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Peptides / physiology
  • Pruritus / chemically induced*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • PNX-14 peptide, mouse
  • Peptides