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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 9;107(45):19555-60. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007622107. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

Vasoactive intestinal peptide loss leads to impaired CNS parenchymal T-cell infiltration and resistance to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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The Semel Institute and Department of Psychiatry, The David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) has been shown to inhibit macrophage proinflammatory actions, promote a positive Th2/Th1 balance, and stimulate regulatory T-cell production. The fact that this peptide is highly efficacious in animal models of inflammatory diseases such as collagen-induced arthritis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) suggests that the endogenous peptide might normally provide protection against such pathologies. We thus studied the response of VIP-deficient (i.e., VIP KO) mice to myelin oligodendrocyte protein-induced EAE. Surprisingly, VIP KO mice were almost completely resistant to EAE, with delayed onset and mild or absent clinical profile. Despite this, flow cytometric analyses and antigen-rechallenge experiments indicated that myelin oligodendrocyte protein-treated VIP KO mice exhibited robust Th1/Th17 cell inductions and antigen-specific proliferation and cytokine responses. Moreover, adoptive transfer of lymphocytes from immunized VIP KO mice to WT recipients resulted in full-blown EAE, supporting their encephalitogenic potential. In contrast, transfer of encephalitogenic WT cells to VIP KO hosts did not produce EAE, suggesting that loss of VIP specifically affected the effector phase of the disease. Histological analyses indicated that CD4 T cells entered the meningeal and perivascular areas of VIP-deficient mice, but that parenchymal infiltration was strongly impaired. Finally, VIP pretreatment of VIP KO mice before immunization was able to restore their sensitivity to EAE. These results indicate that VIP plays an unanticipated permissive and/or proinflammatory role in the propagation of the inflammatory response in the CNS, a finding with potential therapeutic relevance in autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

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