Functional roles of neuromedin B and gastrin-releasing peptide in regulating itch and pain in the spinal cord of non-human primates

Biochem Pharmacol. 2022 Apr;198:114972. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2022.114972. Epub 2022 Feb 18.


Despite accumulating evidence in rodents, the functional role of neuromedin B (NMB) in regulating somatosensory systems in primate spinal cord is unknown. We aimed to compare the expression patterns of NMB and its receptor (NMBR) and the behavioral effects of intrathecal (i.t.) NMB with gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) on itch or pain in non-human primates (NHPs). We used six adult rhesus monkeys. The mRNA or protein expressions of NMB, GRP, and their receptors were evaluated by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemistry, or in situ hybridization. We determined the behavioral effects of NMB or GRP via acute thermal nociception, capsaicin-induced thermal allodynia, and itch scratching response assays. NMB expression levels were greater than those of GRP in the dorsal root ganglia and spinal dorsal horn. Conversely, NMBR expression was significantly lower than GRP receptor (GRPR). I.t. NMB elicited only mild scratching responses, whereas GRP caused robust scratching responses. GRP- and NMB-elicited scratching responses were attenuated by GRPR (RC-3095) and NMBR (PD168368) antagonists, respectively. Moreover, i.t. NMB and GRP did not induce thermal hypersensitivity and GRPR and NMBR antagonists did not affect peripherally elicited thermal allodynia. Consistently, NMBR expression was low in both itch- and pain-responsive neurons in the spinal dorsal horn. Spinal NMB-NMBR system plays a minimal functional role in the neurotransmission of itch and pain in primates. Unlike the functional significance of the GRP-GRPR system in itch, drugs targeting the spinal NMB-NMBR system may not effectively alleviate non-NMBR-mediated itch.

Keywords: Dorsal horn; Non-human primates; Pruritus; Rhesus macaque; Scratching.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide / genetics
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide / metabolism
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide / pharmacology
  • Hyperalgesia* / metabolism
  • Neurokinin B / analogs & derivatives
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Primates / metabolism
  • Pruritus* / chemically induced
  • Pruritus* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Bombesin / genetics
  • Receptors, Bombesin / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Dorsal Horn / metabolism


  • Receptors, Bombesin
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide
  • Neurokinin B
  • neuromedin B