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J Exp Med. 2002 Mar 18;195(6):781-8.

Pharmacological stimulation of the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biomedical Science, North Shore-LIJ Research Institute, 350 Community Drive, Manhasset, NY 11030, USA.


Efferent activity in the vagus nerve can prevent endotoxin-induced shock by attenuating tumor necrosis factor (TNF) synthesis. Termed the "cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway," inhibition of TNF synthesis is dependent on nicotinic alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive acetylcholine receptors on macrophages. Vagus nerve firing is also stimulated by CNI-1493, a tetravalent guanylhydrazone molecule that inhibits systemic inflammation. Here, we studied the effects of pharmacological and electrical stimulation of the intact vagus nerve in adult male Lewis rats subjected to endotoxin-induced shock to determine whether intact vagus nerve signaling is required for the antiinflammatory action of CNI-1493. CNI-1493 administered via the intracerebroventricular route was 100,000-fold more effective in suppressing endotoxin-induced TNF release and shock as compared with intravenous dosing. Surgical or chemical vagotomy rendered animals sensitive to TNF release and shock, despite treatment with CNI-1493, indicating that an intact cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway is required for antiinflammatory efficacy in vivo. Electrical stimulation of either the right or left intact vagus nerve conferred significant protection against endotoxin-induced shock, and specifically attenuated serum and myocardial TNF, but not pulmonary TNF synthesis, as compared with sham-operated animals. Together, these results indicate that stimulation of the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway by either pharmacological or electrical methods can attenuate the systemic inflammatory response to endotoxin-induced shock.

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