Autonomic regulation of cellular immune function

Auton Neurosci. 2014 May;182:15-41. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2014.01.006. Epub 2014 Feb 8.


The nervous system and the immune system (IS) are two integrative systems that work together to detect threats and provide host defense, and to maintain/restore homeostasis. Cross-talk between the nervous system and the IS is vital for health and well-being. One of the major neural pathways responsible for regulating host defense against injury and foreign antigens and pathogens is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Stimulation of adrenergic receptors (ARs) on immune cells regulates immune cell development, survival, proliferative capacity, circulation, trafficking for immune surveillance and recruitment, and directs the cell surface expression of molecules and cytokine production important for cell-to-cell interactions necessary for a coordinated immune response. Finally, AR stimulation of effector immune cells regulates the activational state of immune cells and modulates their functional capacity. This review focuses on our current understanding of the role of the SNS in regulating host defense and immune homeostasis. SNS regulation of IS functioning is a critical link to the development and exacerbation of chronic immune-mediated diseases. However, there are many mechanisms that need to be further unraveled in order to develop sound treatment strategies that act on neural-immune interaction to resolve or prevent chronic inflammatory diseases, and to improve health and quality of life.

Keywords: Bone marrow; Hematopoeisis; Innate and adaptive immunity; Lymph nodes; Mucosal associated lymphoid tissue; Spleen; Sympathetic nervous system; Thymus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / immunology*