Interactions of the immune and sensory nervous systems in atopy

FEBS J. 2018 Sep;285(17):3138-3151. doi: 10.1111/febs.14465. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


A striking feature underlying all atopic disorders, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis, and food allergy, is the presence of pathologic sensory responses, reflexes, and behaviors. These symptoms, exemplified by chronic airway irritation and cough, chronic itch and scratching, as well as gastrointestinal discomfort and dysfunction, are often cited as the most debilitating aspects of atopic disorders. Emerging studies have highlighted how the immune system shapes the scope and intensity of sensory responses by directly modulating the sensory nervous system. Additionally, factors produced by neurons have demonstrated novel functions in propagating atopic inflammation at barrier surfaces. In this review, we highlight new studies that have changed our understanding of atopy through advances in characterizing the reciprocal interactions between the immune and sensory nervous systems.

Keywords: allergy; asthma; atopic dermatitis; atopy; cytokine; neuroimmunology; sensory nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / pathology
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Nervous System / immunology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / immunology*