Itch is an unpleasant sensation that elicits robust scratching and aversive experience. However, the identity of the cells and neural circuits that organize this information remains elusive. Here, we show the necessity and sufficiency of chloroquine-activated neurons in the central amygdala (CeA) for both itch sensation and associated aversion. Further, we show that chloroquine-activated CeA neurons play important roles in itch-related comorbidities, including anxiety-like behaviors, but not in some aversive and appetitive behaviors previously ascribed to CeA neurons. RNA-sequencing of chloroquine-activated CeA neurons identified several differentially expressed genes as well as potential key signaling pathways in regulating pruritis. Finally, viral tracing experiments demonstrate that these neurons send projections to the ventral periaqueductal gray that are critical in modulation of itch. These findings reveal a cellular and circuit signature of CeA neurons orchestrating behavioral and affective responses to pruritus in mice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere68130
StatePublished - May 2021


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