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Trends Immunol. 2007 Sep;28(9):400-7. Epub 2007 Aug 6.

The emergence of neurotransmitters as immune modulators.

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  • 1Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Biology, Diagonal 645, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


Initially, the idea that neurotransmitters could serve as immunomodulators emerged with the discovery that their release and diffusion from nervous tissue could lead to signaling through lymphocyte cell-surface receptors and the modulation of immune function. It is now evident that neurotransmitters can also be released from leukocytes and act as autocrine or paracrine modulators. Here, we review the data indicating that leukocytes synthesize and release 'neurotransmitters' and we also discuss the diverse effects that these compounds exert in a variety of immune cells. The role of neurotransmitters in immune-related diseases is also reviewed succinctly. Current and future developments in understanding the cross-talk between the immune and nervous systems will probably identify new avenues for treating immune-mediated diseases using agonists or antagonists of neurotransmitter receptors.

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