The brain has been traditionally viewed as an immunologically privileged site. However, recent findings suggest that the brain is in fact equipped with its own immune circuitry. Astrocytes and microglia have been considered the most likely candidates to assume the role of intracerebral antigen presenting cells (APC). Using the techniques of immunofluorescence cytochemistry and flow cytometric analysis, we observed that vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) can significantly inhibit gamma-interferon (IFN-γ)-induced Ia expression on astrocytes derived from newborn Lewis rats. Further, we analyzed a number of neuropeptides and transmitters for their ability to exert a similar inhibitory modulation on IFN-γ induced Ia expression or for the ability to induce or augment Ia expression on rat astrocytes. Our results showed that only norepinephrine (NE), a major brain neurotransmitter, and VIP, a ubiquitous brain peptide, have the ability to inhibit Ia expression on Lewis rat astrocyte cultures. Alternately, we report that cholecystokinin (CCK), a brain/gut peptide, has the ability to induce Ia on about 5-10% of the cells analyzed. These findings suggest that endogenous brain substances have the ability to modulate intracerebral immune responses by regulating the expression of Ia on astrocytes.
- MHC class II antigens
- Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Neuroscience