Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology : the official journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology

Cerebellar fastigial nuclear glutamatergic neurons regulate immune function via hypothalamic and sympathetic pathways.

PMID 25649846


We previously have shown that cerebellar fastigial nucleus (FN) modulates immune function, but pathways or mechanisms underlying this immunomodulation require clarification. Herein, an anterograde and retrograde tracing of nerve tracts between the cerebellar FN and hypothalamus/thalamus was performed in rats. After demonstrating a direct cerebellar FN-hypothalamic/thalamic glutamatergic projection, 6-diazo-5-oxo-L-norleucine (DON), an inhibitor of glutaminase that catalyzes glutamate synthesis, was injected bilaterally in the cerebellar FN and simultaneously, D,L-threo-β-hydroxyaspartic acid (THA), an inhibitor of glutamate transporters on cell membrane, was bilaterally injected in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) or the ventrolateral (VL) thalamic nucleus. DON treatment in the FN alone decreased number of glutamatergic neurons that projected axons to the LHA and also diminished glutamate content in both the hypothalamus and the thalamus. These effects of DON were reduced by combined treatment with THA in the LHA or in the VL. Importantly, DON treatment in the FN alone attenuated percentage and cytotoxicity of natural killer (NK) cells and also lowered percentage and cytokine production of T lymphocytes. These DON-caused immune effects were reduced or abolished by combined treatment with THA in the LHA, but not in the VL. Simultaneously, DON treatment elevated level of norepinephrine (NE) in the spleen and mesenteric lymphoid nodes, and THA treatment in the LHA, rather than in the VL, antagonized the DON-caused NE elevation. These findings suggest that glutamatergic neurons in the cerebellar FN regulate innate and adaptive immune functions and the immunomodulation is conveyed by FN-hypothalamic glutamatergic projections and sympathetic nerves that innervate lymphoid tissues.

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