Effects of stress memory by fear conditioning on nerve-mast cell circuit in skin


Seiji Kawana, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Dermatology, Nippon Medical School, Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8603 Japan. Email: kawa2559@nms.ac.jp


Inflammatory skin disorder aggravates when a horrific memory is evoked, but the mechanism of this effect is unclear. The objective of the present study was to examine the effects of evocation of a horrific memory on the skin and mast cells in an animal model. A sound stimulus linked to an electric shock was given to C57BL/6 mice (7-week old, males). One, 3 and 5 days later, the mice received the sound stimulus again. The reactions of mice that received the initial sound stimulus were compared with those of mice that did not receive the initial stimulus. A freezing phenomenon was observed when the sound stimulus was given to mice that received the initial stimulus, which indicated evocation of a past memory of fear. The degranulation rate of dermal mast cells and the length of substance P (SP)-positive nerve fibers of the skin significantly increased on days 1 and 3, the SP level decreased significantly, and the number of SP-expressing cells in the dorsal root ganglion significantly increased on day 1. These findings suggest that prior experience of severe stress linked to a stimulus subsequently evokes fear associated with the same stimulus and results in activation of dermal mast cells and skin nerves.