10 July 1998
Though immune outcome is known to be determined by which helper T cell response predominates, no local mechanism has yet been established which can explain how the neuronal system may control this. It is possible that the nervous system releases neuropeptides at specific local sites of infection or challenge, which triggers lymphocytes at those points to release specific cytokine profiles. These may then influence the direction of the Th1/Th2 response and therefore immune outcome. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether and if so how neuropeptides influence cytokine production by lymphocytes, especially T cells. We investigated the effects of neuropeptide Y (NPY), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) on the production of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) by stimulating nonadherent splenocytes and helper T cell clones with antigens in vitro in the presence or absence of these peptides. NPY greatly enhanced IL-4 production and inhibited IFN-γ. CGRP inhibited IFN-γ production markedly in a dose-dependent manner, but had no effects on IL-4 production. SP and VIP had no effects on IFN-γ production, but SP enhanced and VIP suppressed IL-4 production slightly but consistently. Therefore neuropeptides can influence cytokine production. This opens the door to speculations that these specific cytokine profiles might play a part in influencing the direction of the consequent Th1/Th2 cascade and immune outcome and possibly the pathogenesis of immune-related diseases.