Cellular tango: how immune and nerve cells work together to fight gut infection

Reuters Health Information: Cellular tango: how immune and nerve cells work together to fight gut infection

Cellular tango: how immune and nerve cells work together to fight gut infection

Last Updated: 2017-09-14

By Megan Brooks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research shows that nerve cells in the gut play a key role helping the body mount an immune response to infection, a finding that could have implications for treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other immune-related disorders, researchers say.

"The immune system and neuronal system don't act independently. They are working together," senior author Dr. David Artis, director of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the Michael Kors Professor of Immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine, said in a news release.

The researchers found that immune system cells in the GI tract, called group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), are intertwined with cholinergic neuron, and that ILC2 cells express the neuropeptide neuromedin U (NMU), which acts as a messenger for the nerve cells.

In laboratory experiments, the researchers found that exposing ILC2 cells to NMU causes these cells to rapidly multiply and secrete cytokines that may help trigger an immune response or cause inflammation.

They also found that administering NMU to mice infected with a gut parasite triggers inflammation and an immune response that helps the mice more quickly expel the parasites. Conversely, mice genetically engineered to lack NMU receptors are more susceptible to the parasites, allowing them to multiply rapidly in the rodents' gut.

The results, published online September 6 in Nature, suggest that NMU-producing nerve cells help prime ILC2 cells, enabling them to respond to infection.

In an email to Reuters Health, Dr. Artis said, "The identification of a role for the enteric nervous system and NMU in regulating innate lymphoid cell responses and intestinal inflammation opens up the possibility that these pathways could be targeted in the context of intestinal infection, food allergy and IBD."

"Further research," he added, "will be required to delineate how different nerves and their products selectively regulate the immune response. The findings from these studies could provide a roadmap to develop new therapies."

SOURCE: http://go.nature.com/2w9AH7B

Nature 2017.

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