The Regulation of Immunological Processes by Peripheral Neurons in Homeostasis and Disease

Trends Immunol. 2015 Oct;36(10):578-604. doi: 10.1016/


The nervous system and the immune system are the principal sensory interfaces between the internal and external environment. They are responsible for recognizing, integrating, and responding to varied stimuli, and have the capacity to form memories of these encounters leading to learned or 'adaptive' future responses. We review current understanding of the cross-regulation between these systems. The autonomic and somatosensory nervous systems regulate both the development and deployment of immune cells, with broad functions that impact on hematopoiesis as well as on priming, migration, and cytokine production. In turn, specific immune cell subsets contribute to homeostatic neural circuits such as those controlling metabolism, hypertension, and the inflammatory reflex. We examine the contribution of the somatosensory system to autoimmune, autoinflammatory, allergic, and infectious processes in barrier tissues and, in this context, discuss opportunities for therapeutic manipulation of neuro-immune interactions.

Keywords: Neuroscience; barrier tissues; homeostasis; immunology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / immunology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Signal Transduction