Nerves and T Cells Connect

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Science  07 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6052, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6052.13-c

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. (p. 98, published online 15 September) 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. In order 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. (p. 101, published online 15 September) 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.

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