Researchers Reveal Structure of Itch Receptors (MRGPRX2 and MRGPR4 GPCRs) on Cells; Work Provides Template for Design of New Anti-Itch Medications

Ever wonder what’s going on when you get itchy skin, whether from a rash or medication or some other bodily reaction? And why do some strong anti-itching medications make us nauseous an/or dry-mouthed? Scientists at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) conducted research showing in precise detail how chemicals bind to mast cells and neurons to cause itch, and the scientists figured out the detailed structure of receptor proteins on the surface of these cells when a compound is bound to those proteins. This work, published on November 17, 2021 in Nature, was led by the labs of Bryan L. Roth, MD, PhD and Jonathan Fay, PhD at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Brian Shoichet, PhD, at UCSF, co-senior authors who have collaborated on previous studies of important cell receptors--protein complexes that chemicals (including drugs) bind to cause or stop a reaction inside cells. The Nature article is titled “Structure, Function and Pharmacology of Human Itch GPCRs.”

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