Neuroimmunology of the gut: physiology, pathology, and pharmacology

Shomron Ben-Horin*, Yehuda Chowers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


It has been increasingly appreciated that an intimate interaction between cells of the nervous and immune systems takes place in the gut, and may have a role in diverse inflammatory disorders. Thus, for instance, activation of the enteric nervous system may reduce intestinal epithelial permeability, via several mediators including S-nitrosoglutathione and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Moreover, ablation of glial cells instigated enterocolitis in murine models. These neuronal effects are particularly intriguing given our current understanding of the immunopathogenesis of Crohn's disease, in which intestinal barrier defect is suspected to at least partly drive the immune hyper-reactivity and ensuing inflammation. Parasympathetic nicotinic signaling, primarily via nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 (α7 nACHr), also exerts immunomodulatory effects, possibily underlaying the detrimental effects of smoking on Chron's disease, and its beneficial impact on ulcerative colitis. These, and others, neuro-immune interactions may pave the way to the design of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-495
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2008


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