Sympathetic-Immune Interactions during Different Types of Immune Challenge

Neuroimmunomodulation. 2024;31(1):1-11. doi: 10.1159/000535467. Epub 2023 Nov 26.


Background: The neuro-endocrine regulation of immune functions is based on a complex network of interactions. As part of this series of articles, we refer here to immune-sympathetic interactions that are triggered by different types of immune challenge.

Summary: We mention the initial hypothesis that led to the proposal that the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is involved in immunoregulation. We next refer mainly to our initial work performed at a time when most immunologists were concentrated in clarifying aspects of the immune system that are essential for its regulation from within. The first approach was to explore whether immune responses to innocuous antigens and superantigens can elicit changes in the activity of the SNS, and their potential relevance for the regulation of the activity of the immune system. The following step was to explore whether comparable immune-SNS interactions are detected in different models of diseases with immune components, such as parasitic and viral infections and autoimmune pathologies.

Key messages: We pose some general considerations that may at least partially explain seemly discrepant findings, and remark the importance of interpreting immunoregulatory effects of the SNS together with other neuro-endocrine inputs that simultaneously occur when the activity of the immune system changes. Finally, we provide some arguments to re-consider the use of the expression "reflex" in immunology.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Immunoregulation; Infectious diseases; Innocuous antigens; Noradrenaline.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Immune System*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System*