The Involvement of Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nerve in the Inflammatory Reflex

J Cell Physiol. 2016 Sep;231(9):1862-9. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25307. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Production of inflammatory cytokines plays important roles in the response against tissue injury and in host defense. Alterations in the production of inflammatory cytokines may cause local or systemic inflammatory imbalance, culminating in organ failure or lethal systemic inflammation. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway has been implicated as an important mechanism to regulate inflammation of targeted tissue. In this review, we discuss important advances, conflicting and controversial findings regarding the involvement of parasympathetic vagus and sympathetic splenic nerve through acetylcholine (ACh) release and α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRα7) activation in the spleen. In addition, we address the involvement of cholinergic control of inflammation in other organs innerved by the vagus nerve such as gut, liver, kidney and lung, and independent of parasympathetic innervations such as skin and skeletal muscle. Then, other structures and mechanisms independent of vagus or splenic nerve may be involved in this process, such as local cells and motor neurons producing ACh. Altogether, the convergence of these findings may contribute to current anti-inflammatory strategies involving selective drug-targeting and electrical nerve stimulation. J. Cell. Physiol. 231: 1862-1869, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Spleen / metabolism*
  • Vagus Nerve / metabolism*
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor