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Clin Exp Immunol. 1994 Jun;96(3):384-8.

Disturbed immunoregulatory properties of the neuropeptide substance P on lymphocyte proliferation in HIV infection.

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Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon, University Hospital of Santa Maria, Portugal.


The neuropeptide substance P (SP) is known to increase cell-mediated immune responses in animal models and healthy subjects. Several studies have suggested an involvement of neuropeptides in the immunopathogenesis of some diseases. The study of the immunomodulatory effects of neuropeptides, namely SP, may represent a model for the analysis of immunoregulatory defects in HIV infection at the level of the interaction between the immune and nervous systems, both of which are known to be affected by the virus. In the present study, we investigate the possibility of a disturbance in the immunomodulatory properties of SP in HIV infection by analysing the effects of SP (10(-10)-10(-6) M) on the lymphocyte proliferative responses to concanavalin A (Con A) and phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) assessed by 3H-thymidine incorporation in peripheral blood lymphocytes from 34 HIV-infected patients (16 asymptomatic (ASY)/persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (PGL); 18 ARC/AIDS) and in 37 healthy subjects. In ASY/PGL HIV-infected patients, SP 10(-7) M was identified as the concentration inducing the maximal increase in the lymphocyte responses to Con A and PHA, similarly to what was observed in healthy subjects. In ARC/AIDS patients, SP appeared to inhibit the mitogenic responses, particularly those induced by Con A, in contrast to the effects found either in healthy subjects or in ASY/PGL patients. These results suggest the existence of an alteration in the in vitro immunomodulatory properties of SP in ARC/AIDS patients compared with healthy subjects and ASY/PGL patients. In conclusion, the unexpected finding of an inhibitory effect of SP on lymphocyte proliferation from ARC/AIDS patients justifies further investigation of the neuropeptide-dependent immunoregulatory systems in HIV infection.

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