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Brain Behav Immun. 2010 Feb;24(2):316-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2009.10.016. Epub 2009 Nov 1.

The vagus nerve modulates CD4+ T cell activity.

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The Brain-Body Institute and Department of Medicine, McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Ont., Canada.


The vagus nerve has a counter-inflammatory role in a number of model systems. While the majority of these anti-inflammatory effects have been ascribed to the activation of nicotinic receptors on macrophages, little is known about the role of the vagus in modulating the activity of other cells involved in inflammatory responses. Here, we demonstrate that following subdiaphragmatic vagotomy of mice CD4(+) T cells from the spleen proliferated at a higher rate and produced more pro-inflammatory cytokines, including TNF and IFN-gamma, upon in vitro stimulation. Cell responses were restored to control levels following the administration of nicotine and the treatment of non-vagotomized animals with a nicotinic receptor antagonist could mimic the effect of vagotomy. Our results suggest that vagal input constitutively down-regulates T cell function through action at nicotinic receptors and the role of the vagus in regulating immune responses is more extensive than previously demonstrated.

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