Neuroimmune Communication

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Science  07 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6052, pp. 47-48
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213099

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Our immune and nervous systems influence each other, both locally and at a distance (14). Locally, immune responses in the central nervous system (CNS) include activation of resident glia cells and macrophages (36), and infiltration of circulating immune cells (5). Many responses rely on cytokines secreted by immune cells for communicating not only to immune cells but also to neurons and glia to control synaptic pruning (7), neuroplasticity (8), and neuroprotection (3). Molecules important in the immune system, such as major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins, are also expressed by neurons and glia and likely contribute to neural function. Can the nervous system communicate with the immune system through neurotransmitters—chemicals that relay signals from neurons to target cells—to regulate inflammation and immunity, or even to feed back and regulate the nervous system itself? Two papers in this issue, by Rosas-Ballina et al. on page 98 (9) and Wong et al. on page 101 (10), demonstrate how neurotransmitters directly modulate specific cells and cellular responses in the immune system at a distance.