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J Immunol. 2002 Jun 15;168(12):6128-35.

Catecholamines inhibit the antigen-presenting capability of epidermal Langerhans cells.

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Department of Dermatology and Neurology, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The sympathetic nervous system modulates immune function at a number of levels. Within the epidermis, APCs (Langerhans cells (LC)) are frequently anatomically associated with peripheral nerves. Furthermore, some neuropeptides have been shown to regulate LC Ag-presenting function. We explored the expression of adrenergic receptors (AR) in murine LC and assessed their functional role on Ag presentation and modulation of cutaneous immune responses. Both purified LC and the LC-like cell lines XS52-4D and XS106 expressed mRNA for the ARs alpha(1A) and beta(2). XS106 cells and purified LC also expressed beta(1)-AR mRNA. Treatment of murine epidermal cell preparations with epinephrine (EPI) or norepinephrine inhibited Ag presentation in vitro. Furthermore, pretreatment of epidermal cells with EPI or norepinephrine in vitro suppressed the ability of these cells to present Ag for elicitation of delayed-type hypersensitivity in previously immunized mice. This effect was blocked by use of the beta(2)-adrenergic antagonist ICI 118,551 but not by the alpha-antagonist phentolamine. Local intradermal injection of EPI inhibited the induction of contact hypersensitivity to epicutaneously administered haptens. Surprisingly, injection of EPI at a distant site also suppressed induction of contact hypersensitivity. Thus, catecholamines may have both local and systemic effects. We conclude that specific ARs are expressed on LC and that signaling through these receptors can decrease epidermal immune reactions.

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