MRGPRX2 Is the Codeine Receptor of Human Skin Mast Cells: Desensitization through β-Arrestin and Lack of Correlation with the FcεRI Pathway

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Babina, M.
Wang, Z.
Roy, S.
Guhl, S.
Franke, K.
Artuc, M.
Ali, H.
Zuberbier, T.

Codeine stimulates skin mast cells and is therefore used in skin tests and as an inducer of experimental itch.MRGPRX2 responds to various drugs, including opioids, to elicit pseudoallergic reactions, but whether it represents the main opiate receptor of skin mast cells remains unknown. By combining a number of approaches, including the silencing of MRGPRX2, we now report that MRGPRX2 is indeed the dominant codeine receptor of dermal mast cells. Activation by codeine displayed profound subject variability and correlated with secretion elicited by compound 48/80 or substance P but not by FcεRI aggregation. Degranulation by codeine was attenuated by stem cell factor, whereas the opposite was found for FcεRI. Compound 48/80 or codeine alone was able to achieve maximum MRGPRX2 activation. MRGPRX2 was rapidly internalized on codeine binding in a b-arrestin-1‒dependent manner. Codeine-triggered b-arrestin activation was also established by the Tango assay. Prestimulation with MRGPRX2 agonists (but not C3a or FcεRI aggregation) resulted in refractoriness to further stimulation by the same or another MRGPRX2 ligand (cross desensitization). This was duplicated in a cell line (RBL-MRGPRX2). Collectively, codeine degranulates skin mast cells through MRGPRX2, at which it acts as a balanced ligand. It has yet to be determined whether codeine-induced refractoriness could be exploited to desensitize MRGPRX2 to prevent severe pseudoallergic reactions.

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Journal of Investigative Dermatology
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