Interaction between the hypothalamus and the immune system

Exp Physiol. 2016 Dec 1;101(12):1463-1471. doi: 10.1113/EP085560. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


What is the topic of this review? Both branches of the autonomic nervous system are involved in the regulation of the inflammatory response. We explore how the hypothalamus may influence this process. What advances does it highlight? We analyse how a lipopolysaccharide signal is transmitted to the brain and which areas participate in the response of the brain to lipopolysaccharide. Recent studies show that the hypothalamus can influence the inflammatory response by modifying the autonomic output. The biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, is integrated into this circuit, putting a time stamp on the intensity of the inflammatory response. The brain is responsible for maintaining homeostasis of the organism, constantly adjusting its output via hormones and the autonomic nervous system to reach an optimal setting in every compartment of the body. Also, the immune system is under strong control of the brain. Apart from the conventional systemic responses evoked by the brain during inflammation, such as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation and the induction of sickness behaviour, the autonomic nervous system is now recognized to exert regulatory effects on the inflammatory response. Both branches of the autonomic nervous system are proposed to influence the inflammatory process. Here, we focus on those areas of the brain that might be involved in sensing inflammatory stimuli, followed by how that sensing could change the output of the autonomic nervous system in order to regulate the inflammatory response. Finally, we will discuss how the defenses of the body against a lipopolysaccharide challenge are organized by the hypothalamus.

Keywords: Inflammation; parasympathetic nervous system; paraventricular nucleus; suprachiasmatic nucleus; sympathetic nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology