Nervous in Defence
Our nervous system plays a key role in regulating immunity. Illustrated, for example, by the finding that stimulating a major nerve serving the heart, lungs and gut – the vagus – can relieve a damaging inflammatory response made by the immune system. But many of the details of how these two systems communicate remain to be uncovered. One important link is a kind of T cell, an immune cell that produces a neurotransmitter Ach when it senses release of an adrenalin-like hormone by nerves in response to stresses, such as tissue damage or infection. Called ChAT+ T cells, researchers investigated their role during bacterial infection. On the left is a section of gut of a normal mouse infected with C. rodentium (in red), and on the right gut from a mouse genetically-engineered to lack ChAT+ cells. Without ChAT+ cells the bacterial infection is heavier, demonstrating how important these neuro-immune go-betweens are for host defence.
Written by Lindsey Goff
- Image adapted from work by Valerie T. Ramirez and Dayn Romero Godinez, and colleagues
- Department, of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, Davis, CA, USA
- Image originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
- Published in PLOS Pathogens, April 2019