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J Morphol. 1994 Sep;221(3):243-59.

Noradrenergic and peptidergic innervation of lymphoid organs in the beluga, Delphinapterus leucas: an anatomical link between the nervous and immune systems.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642.


The presence of peptidergic and noradrenergic sympathetic nerve fibers in specific compartments of both primary and secondary lymphoid organs of the rodent is well established. These nerve fibers directly contact lymphocytes and macrophages, as well as vascular and trabecular smooth muscle. We investigated the noradrenergic and neuropeptide-Y innervation of lymphoid organs in the cetacean, Delphinapterus leucas (beluga whale). The spleen, thymus, tonsil, gut-associated lymphoid tissue, and assorted lymph nodes were collected from five belugas, obtained during sanctioned hunts, and processed for catecholamine fluorescence histochemistry and for tyrosine hydroxylase and neuropeptide-Y immunocytochemistry. Innervation studies revealed fluorescent nerve fibers, tyrosine hydroxylase, and neuropeptide-Y positive nerve fibers in parenchymal lymphoid compartments, where they were closely associated with cells of the immune system, and in vascular and trabecular compartments. In lymphoid zones, tyrosine hydroxylase and neuropeptide-Y positive nerve fibers were observed in the periarteriolar lymphatic sheath and marginal zone of the spleen; in the outermost portion of the cortex, the corticomedullary zone, and medulla of the lymph nodes; in the parafollicular zones, and diffuse lymphocyte layer below the epithelium of the tonsil; in the outermost portion of some thymic lobules; and in the lamina propria of the gut. These findings are similar to those described for other mammals and substantiate an anatomical link between the nervous and immune systems in the beluga, whereby central nervous system activity may influence autonomic outflow to lymphoid organs and effect immunologic reactivity.

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