Dopaminergic Regulation of Innate Immunity: a Review

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2017 Dec;12(4):602-623. doi: 10.1007/s11481-017-9749-2. Epub 2017 Jun 3.


Dopamine (DA) is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system as well as in peripheral tissues. Emerging evidence however points to DA also as a key transmitter between the nervous system and the immune system as well as a mediator produced and released by immune cells themselves. Dopaminergic pathways have received so far extensive attention in the adaptive branch of the immune system, where they play a role in health and disease such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and Parkinson's disease. Comparatively little is known about DA and the innate immune response, although DA may affect innate immune system cells such as dendritic cells, macrophages, microglia, and neutrophils. The present review aims at providing a complete and exhaustive summary of currently available evidence about DA and innate immunity, and to become a reference for anyone potentially interested in the fields of immunology, neurosciences and pharmacology. A wide array of dopaminergic drugs is used in therapeutics for non-immune indications, such as Parkinson's disease, hyperprolactinemia, shock, hypertension, with a usually favorable therapeutic index, and they might be relatively easily repurposed for immune-mediated disease, thus leading to innovative treatments at low price, with benefit for patients as well as for the healthcare systems.

Keywords: Dopamine; Dopaminergic receptors; Drug repurposing; Human disease; Innate immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*


  • Dopamine