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Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2009;5:81-9. Epub 2009 Apr 8.

Postulated vasoactive neuropeptide immunopathology affecting the blood-brain/blood-spinal barrier in certain neuropsychiatric fatigue-related conditions: A role for phosphodiesterase inhibitors in treatment?

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Queensland Health, Gold Coast Population Health Unit, Southport, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.


Neuropsychiatric symptoms occur in a number of neurological fatigue-related conditions including multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). These conditions have been attributed variably to neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative processes. While autoimmune pathology, at least in part, has long been suspected in these conditions proof has been elusive. Autoimmune pathomechanisms affecting the blood-brain barrier (BBB) or blood-spinal barrier (BSB) may predispose the BBB/BSB to 'leakiness' and be a precursor to additional autoimmune events resulting in neuroinflammatory or neurodegenerative processes. The aim of the paper is to postulate immunopathology of the cerebrospinal perivascular compartment involving certain vasoactive neuropeptides, specifically pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), in the etiology of certain neuropsychiatric fatigue-related conditions such as MS, ALS, PD, and CFS. Vasoactive neuropeptides (VNs) such as PACAP and VIP have critical roles as neurotransmitters, vasodilators including perfusion and hypoxia regulators, and immune and nociception modulators. PACAP and VIP are widely distributed in the central nervous system (CNS) and have key roles in CNS blood vessels including maintaining functional integrity of the BBB and BSB. Autoimmunity affecting these VNs would likely have a detrimental effect on BBB and BSB functioning arguably predisposing to further pathological processes. Virchow-Robin spaces (VRS) are perivascular compartments surrounding small vessels within the CNS which contribute to the BBB and BSB integrity and contain PACAP and VIP receptors. Autoimmunity of these receptors would likely affect BBB and VRS function and therefore may contribute to the etiology of these conditions by affecting CNS and immunological homeostasis, including promoting neuropsychological symptomatology. PACAP and VIP, as potent activators of adenylate cyclase (AC), have a key role in cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) production affecting regulatory T cell (Treg) and other immune functions. Phosphodiesterase enzymes (PDEs) catalyze cAMP and PDE inhibitors (PDEIs) maintain cAMP levels and have proven and well known therapeutic benefit in animal models such as experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). Therefore PDEIs may have a role in therapy for certain neuropsychiatric fatigue-related conditions.


Parkinson’s disease; Virchow–Robin spaces; adenylate cyclase; chronic fatigue syndrome; cyclic AMP; multiple sclerosis; phosphodiesterase inhibitors; vasoactive neuropeptides

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