Selective expression of a neuromodulatory cytokine (IL-2) in specific brainstem neurovegetative centers: a possible final common neuro-molecular pathway in dying patients

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Jun;78(6):793-5. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.03.010. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Cytokines interact with neurotransmitters and modify neuronal and neuroimmune functions. Intense in situ neuronal IL-2 immunoreactivity was detected in vital human brainstem neuronal centers which are principally implicated in cardio-respiratory control mechanisms. These observations were made in critically-ill aging adult as well as in young infant patients dying from various clinico-pathological conditions. We suggested that this in situ cytokine over-expression might tip a delicate balance in molecular interactions in those vital neuro-vegetative centers, causing disturbed homeostatic control of cardio-respiratory functions and impaired arousal responses; we further hypothesized that this IL-2-induced neuro-molecular disequilibrium in the brainstem microenvironment might thus be part of a final common pathway leading to death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Pathways / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism*
  • Death*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Respiration*


  • Interleukin-2
  • Neurotransmitter Agents