Autonomic Nervous System and Immune System Interactions

Published on Jun 12, 2014in Comprehensive Physiology6.604
· DOI :10.1002/CPHY.C130051
Michael J. Kenney22
Estimated H-index: 22
(KSU: Kansas State University),
Chanran K. Ganta8
Estimated H-index: 8
(KSU: Kansas State University)
The present review assesses the current state of literature defining integrative autonomic-immune physiological processing, focusing on studies that have employed electrophysiological, pharmacological, molecular biological and central nervous system experimental approaches. Central autonomic neural networks are informed of peripheral immune status via numerous communicating pathways, including neural and non-neural. Cytokines and other immune factors affect the level of activity and responsivity of discharges in sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves innervating diverse targets. Multiple levels of the neuraxis contribute to cytokine-induced changes in efferent parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve outflows, leading to modulation of peripheral immune responses. The functionality of local sympathoimmune interactions depends on the microenvironment created by diverse signaling mechanisms involving integration between sympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters and neuromodulators; specific adrenergic receptors; and the presence or absence of immune cells, cytokines and bacteria. Functional mechanisms contributing to the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway likely involve novel cholinergic-adrenergic interactions at peripheral sites, including autonomic ganglion and lymphoid targets. Immune cells express adrenergic and nicotinic receptors. Neurotransmitters released by sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve endings bind to their respective receptors located on the surface of immune cells and initiate immune-modulatory responses. Both sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system are instrumental in orchestrating neuroimmune processes, although additional studies are required to understand dynamic and complex adrenergic-cholinergic interactions. Further understanding of regulatory mechanisms linking the sympathetic nervous, parasympathetic nervous, and immune systems is critical for understanding relationships between chronic disease development and immune-associated changes in autonomic nervous system function.
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