Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Nervous in Defence

T cells that produce the neurotransmitter Ach are important for reducing the burden of gut infection

18 April 2019

Nervous in Defence

Our nervous system plays a key role in regulating immunity. Illustrated, for example, by the finding that stimulating a major nerve serving the heart, lungs and gut – the vagus – can relieve a damaging inflammatory response made by the immune system. But many of the details of how these two systems communicate remain to be uncovered. One important link is a kind of T cell, an immune cell that produces a neurotransmitter Ach when it senses release of an adrenalin-like hormone by nerves in response to stresses, such as tissue damage or infection. Called ChAT+ T cells, researchers investigated their role during bacterial infection. On the left is a section of gut of a normal mouse infected with C. rodentium (in red), and on the right gut from a mouse genetically-engineered to lack ChAT+ cells. Without ChAT+ cells the bacterial infection is heavier, demonstrating how important these neuro-immune go-betweens are for host defence.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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