Immunity's Nervous Supervisor

November 30, 1998

Our body systems are like sections in an orchestra, "conducted" by the brain. But how exactly does the brain, which is part of the central nervous system, send its messages directly to the other systems? While nerve cells communicate through neurotransmitters, the immune system's T cells, for instance, do their talking through entirely different molecular messengers, the most important ones being cytokines.

Dr. Mia Levite of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department has discovered that there is indeed direct communication between the nervous and immune systems. In a study reported recently in the PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, she showed for the first time that neurotransmitters can "order" cytokine secretion from T cells. This may help explain how immune system cells can be activated by the brain in the absence of any classical immunological trigger such as bacteria or viruses. By eavesdropping on this molecular dialogue, scientists may gain new insights into the way information sensed by the nerves can affect the immune system, calling upon it to adjust to a new situation, such as stress.

Levite's study may also account for rapid T cell activation by the nervous system, since neurotransmitters deliver their messages extremely quickly. Thus, our bodywide system of nerves may serve as the immune system's information superhighway, helping to coordinate the activity of its various isolated components.

Interestingly, Levite found that when T cells are activated by the nervous system, they can secrete types of cytokines that they are normally forbidden to release. This finding is very important for understanding, and possibly one day also treating, the disorders in which the delicate balance between different sets of cytokines is disrupted, such as numerous autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes.
-end-
Luba Vikhanski
Head, Foreign Press Section
Publications and Media Relations Department
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Tel. 972-8-934-3855 (office) 972-3-602-2868 (home)
Fax 972-8-934-4104
Have you visited our Web site? http://www.weizmann.ac.il
-end-


American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.