Mechanisms of immune regulation in the peripheral nervous system

Brain Pathol. 1999 Apr;9(2):343-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.1999.tb00231.x.


The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is a target for heterogenous immune attacks mediated by different components of the systemic immune compartment. T cells, B cells, and macrophages can interact with endogenous, partially immune-competent glial cells and contribute to local inflammation. Cellular and humoral immune functions of Schwann cells have been well characterized in vitro. In addition, the interaction of the humoral and cellular immune system with the cellular and extracellular components in the PNS may determine the extent of tissue inflammation and repair processes such as remyelination and neuronal outgrowth. The animal model experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN) allows direct monitoring of these immune responses in vivo. In EAN contributions to regulate autoimmunity in the PNS are made by adhesion molecules and by cytokines that orchestrate cellular interactions. The PNS has a significant potential to eliminate T cell inflammation via apoptosis, which is almost lacking in other tissues such as muscle and skin. In vitro experiments suggest different scenarios how specific cellular and humoral elements in the PNS may sensitize autoreactive T cells for apoptosis in vivo. Interestingly several conventional and novel immunotherapeutic approaches like glucocorticosteroids and high-dose antigen therapy induce T cell apoptosis in situ in EAN. A better understanding of immune regulation and its failure in the PNS may help to develop improved, more specific immunotherapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Models, Immunological
  • Peripheral Nervous System / immunology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / immunology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology