The Spleen: A Hub Connecting Nervous and Immune Systems in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jun 7;18(6):1216. doi: 10.3390/ijms18061216.


Metabolic disorders have been identified as major health problems affecting a large portion of the world population. In addition, obesity and insulin resistance are principal risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases. Altered immune responses are common features of both hypertension and obesity and, moreover, the involvement of the nervous system in the modulation of immune system is gaining even more attention in both pathophysiological contexts. For these reasons, during the last decades, researches focused their efforts on the comprehension of the molecular mechanisms connecting immune system to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. On the other hand, it has been reported that in these pathological conditions, central neural pathways modulate the activity of the peripheral nervous system, which is strongly involved in onset and progression of the disease. It is interesting to notice that neural reflex can also participate in the modulation of immune functions. In this scenario, the spleen becomes the crucial hub allowing the interaction of different systems differently involved in metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Here, we summarize the major findings that dissect the role of the immune system in disorders related to metabolic and cardiovascular dysfunctions, and how this could also be influenced by neural reflexes.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; hypertension; neuroimmune interactions; obesity; splenic immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Metabolic Diseases / complications
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spleen / immunology*
  • Spleen / innervation*
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Sympathetic Nervous System