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Autoimmunity. 1995;21(3):161-71.

Beta-endorphin and the immune system--possible role in autoimmune diseases.

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Department of Rheumatology, Hvidovre Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The immune system and the neuroendocrine system are closely interconnected having such means of bidirectional communication and regulation. In this review, a hypothesis is put forward regarding the possible role of beta-endorphins in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases: It is suggested that the increased cytokine production in immunoinflammatory disorders induces production of beta-endorphins from the pituitary and the lymphocytes; the enhanced level of beta-endorphin causes inhibition of human T helper cell function, which potentially down-regulate the antibody production. Also the beta-endorphin-induced enhancement of the natural killer cell activity may suppress the B cell function. In addition, beta-endorphin also exerts a direct inhibitory effect on the antibody production. Thus, in autoimmune disorders the enhanced cytokine level may via stimulation of the production of beta-endorphins exert a negative feed back on the antibody production and potentially so on the production of autoantibodies.

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