The nervous system is classically organized into sympathetic and parasympathetic systems acting in opposition to maintain physiological homeostasis. Here, we report that both systems converge in the activation of β2-adrenoceptors of splenic regulatory lymphocytes to control systemic inflammation. Vagus nerve stimulation fails to control serum TNF levels in either β2-knockout or lymphocyte-deficient nude mice. Unlike typical suppressor CD25(+) cells, the transfer of CD4(+)CD25(-) regulatory lymphocytes reestablishes the anti-inflammatory potential of the vagus nerve and β2-agonists to control inflammation in both β2-knockout and nude mice. β2-Agonists inhibit cytokine production in splenocytes (IC(50)≈ 1 μM) and prevent systemic inflammation in wild-type but not in β2-knockout mice. β2-Agonists rescue wild-type mice from established polymicrobial peritonitis in a clinically relevant time frame. Regulatory lymphocytes reestablish the anti-inflammatory potential of β2-agonists to control systemic inflammation, organ damage, and lethal endotoxic shock in β2-knockout mice. These results indicate that β2-adrenoceptors in regulatory lymphocytes are critical for the anti-inflammatory potential of the parasympathetic vagus nerve, and they represent a potential pharmacological target for sepsis.
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