Nerves and T Cells Connect

Science Signaling  11 Oct 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 194, pp. ec287
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4194ec287

Links between the nervous system and the immune system are becoming better understood (see the Perspective by Trakhtenberg and Goldberg). The vagus nerve, which originates in the brainstem and innervates major organs, including the spleen and the gut, regulates physiological responses to stress, injury, and infection. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines and inflammation-associated pathology primarily by acting on cytokine-producing macrophages in the spleen. Working in mice, Rosas-Ballina et al. found that a subpopulation of helper T cells produced acetylcholine in the spleen and were necessary and sufficient for vagus nerve–mediated inhibition of proinflammatory cytokine production. To prevent immune-related pathology that is induced by tissue damage, the poststroke brain produces signals that result in immunosuppression. In a mouse model of stroke, Wong et al. found that stroke induced changes in natural killer T cell movement in the liver and altered the range of cytokines they secrete toward a more immunoregulatory profile. These changes were dependent on noradrenergic signaling.

M. Rosas-Ballina, P. S. Olofsson, M. Ochani, S. I. Valdés-Ferrer, Y. A. Levine, C. Reardon, M. W. Tusche, V. A. Pavlov, U. Andersson, S. Chavan, T. W. Mak, K. J. Tracey, Acetylcholine-synthesizing T cells relay neural signals in a vagus nerve circuit. Science 334, 98–101 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]

C. H. Y. Wong, C. N. Jenne, W.-Y. Lee, C. Léger, P. Kubes, Functional innervation of hepatic iNKT cells is immunosuppressive following stroke. Science 334, 101–105 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]

E. F. Trakhtenberg, J. L. Goldberg, Neuroimmune communication. Science 334, 47–48 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]