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J Neurosci. 2007 Aug 15;27(33):8857-65.

Social stress enhances sympathetic innervation of primate lymph nodes: mechanisms and implications for viral pathogenesis.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, UCLA School of Medicine, UCLA AIDS Institute, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Los Angeles, California 90095-1678, USA.


Behavioral processes regulate immune system function in part via direct sympathetic innervation of lymphoid organs, but little is known about the factors that regulate the architecture of neural fibers in lymphoid tissues. In the present study, we find that experimentally imposed social stress can enhance the density of catecholaminergic neural fibers within axillary lymph nodes from adult rhesus macaques. This effect is linked to increased transcription of the key sympathetic neurotrophin nerve growth factor and occurs predominately in extrafollicular regions of the paracortex that contain T-lymphocytes and macrophages. Functional consequences of stress-induced increases in innervation density include reduced type I interferon response to viral infection and increased replication of the simian immunodeficiency virus. These data reveal a surprising degree of behaviorally induced plasticity in the structure of lymphoid innervation and define a novel pathway by which social factors can modulate immune response and viral pathogenesis.

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