Innervation of nociceptor neurons in the spleen promotes germinal center responses and humoral immunity

Cell. 2024 Jun 6;187(12):2935-2951.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2024.04.027. Epub 2024 May 20.


Peripheral sensory neurons widely innervate various tissues to continuously monitor and respond to environmental stimuli. Whether peripheral sensory neurons innervate the spleen and modulate splenic immune response remains poorly defined. Here, we demonstrate that nociceptive sensory nerve fibers extensively innervate the spleen along blood vessels and reach B cell zones. The spleen-innervating nociceptors predominantly originate from left T8-T13 dorsal root ganglia (DRGs), promoting the splenic germinal center (GC) response and humoral immunity. Nociceptors can be activated by antigen-induced accumulation of splenic prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and then release calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which further promotes the splenic GC response at the early stage. Mechanistically, CGRP directly acts on B cells through its receptor CALCRL-RAMP1 via the cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling pathway. Activating nociceptors by ingesting capsaicin enhances the splenic GC response and anti-influenza immunity. Collectively, our study establishes a specific DRG-spleen sensory neural connection that promotes humoral immunity, suggesting a promising approach for improving host defense by targeting the nociceptive nervous system.

Keywords: B cells; CGRP; TRPV1; capsaicin; germinal center responses; humoral immunity; neuroimmune crosstalk; nociceptor neurons; spleen.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide* / metabolism
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Germinal Center* / immunology
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spleen* / immunology
  • Spleen* / innervation


  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Capsaicin
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Dinoprostone
  • Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein 1