Dopamine β-hydroxylase shapes intestinal inflammation through modulating T cell activation

Cell Immunol. 2024 Jul-Aug:401-402:104839. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2024.104839. Epub 2024 May 31.


Background: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic and relapsing disease characterized by immune-mediated dysfunction of intestinal homeostasis. Alteration of the enteric nervous system and the subsequent neuro-immune interaction are thought to contribute to the initiation and progression of IBD. However, the role of dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH), an enzyme converting dopamine into norepinephrine, in modulating intestinal inflammation is not well defined.

Methods: CD4+CD45RBhighT cell adoptive transfer, and 2,4-dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (DNBS) or dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis were collectively conducted to uncover the effects of DBH inhibition by nepicastat, a DBH inhibitor, in mucosal ulceration, disease severity, and T cell function.

Results: Inhibition of DBH by nepicastat triggered therapeutic effects on T cell adoptive transfer induced chronic mouse colitis model, which was consistent with the gene expression of DBH in multiple cell populations including T cells. Furthermore, DBH inhibition dramatically ameliorated the disease activity and colon shortening in chemically induced acute and chronic IBD models, as evidenced by morphological and histological examinations. The reshaped systemic inflammatory status was largely associated with decreased pro-inflammatory mediators, such as TNF-α, IL-6 and IFN-γ in plasma and re-balanced Th1, Th17 and Tregs in mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) upon colitis progression. Additionally, the conversion from dopamine (DA) to norepinephrine (NE) was inhibited resulting in increase in DA level and decrease in NE level and DA/NE showed immune-modulatory effects on the activation of immune cells.

Conclusion: Modulation of neurotransmitter levels via inhibition of DBH exerted protective effects on progression of murine colitis by modulating the neuro-immune axis. These findings suggested a promising new therapeutic strategy for attenuating intestinal inflammation.

Keywords: Dopamine; Dopamine beta-hydroxylase; Inflammatory bowel disease; Nepicastat; Neuroimmune modulation; Norepinephrine.

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer*
  • Animals
  • Colitis* / chemically induced
  • Colitis* / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase* / metabolism
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation* / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Cytokines