Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive signaling lipid associated with a variety of chronic pain and itch disorders. S1P signaling has been linked to cutaneous pain, but its role in itch has not yet been studied. Here we find that S1P triggers itch and pain in mice in a concentration-dependent manner, with low levels triggering acute itch alone, and high levels triggering both pain and itch. Calcium imaging and electrophysiological experiments revealed that S1P signals via S1PR3 and TRPA1 in a subset of pruriceptors, and via S1PR3 and TRPV1 in a subset of heat nociceptors. And in behavioral assays, S1P-evoked itch was selectively lost in mice lacking TRPA1, whereas S1P-evoked acute pain and heat hypersensitivity were selectively lost in mice lacking TRPV1. We conclude that S1P acts via different cellular and molecular mechanisms to trigger itch and pain. Our discovery elucidates the diverse roles that S1P signaling plays in somatosensation and provides insight into how itch and pain are discriminated in the periphery.
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