Neural regulation of immunity: role of NPR-1 in pathogen avoidance and regulation of innate immunity.
The nervous and immune systems consist of complex networks that have been known to be closely interrelated. However, given the complexity of the nervous and immune systems of mammals, including humans, the precise mechanisms by which the two systems influence each other remain understudied. To cut through this complexity, we used the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a simple system to study the relationship between the immune and nervous systems using sophisticated genetic manipulations. We found that C. elegans mutants in G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) expressed in the nervous system exhibit aberrant responses to pathogen infection. The use of different pathogens, different modes of infection and genome-wide microarrays highlighted the importance of the GPCR NPR-1 in avoidance to certain pathogens and in the regulation of innate immunity. The regulation of innate immunity was found to take place at least in part through a mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway similar to the mammalian p38 MAPK pathway. Here, the results that support the different roles of the NPR-1 neural circuit in the regulation of C. elegans responses to pathogen infection are discussed.
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