JOURNAL OF NEUROIMMUNE PHARMACOLOGY, vol.10, no.3, pp.457-467, 2015 (SCI-Expanded)
The neuropeptide substance P (SP) exhibits cytokine-like properties and exerts different effects in autoimmune inflammation. Various immune cells express SP and its neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) isoforms. A role for SP has been demonstrated in a number of autoimmune conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS). In this work, we studied the role of SP and NK1R in human immune cells with a focus on their relationship with IL-12/IL-23 family cytokines and the associated IFN-gamma/IL-17. AIMS: (1) To determine the role of SP mediated effects on induction of various inflammatory cytokines in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC); (2) to investigate the expression of SP and its receptor in T cells and the effects of stimulation with IL-12 and IL-23. Quantitative real-time PCR, flow cytometry, ELISA, promoter studies on PBMC and primary T cells from healthy volunteers, and Jurkat cell line. Treatment with SP significantly increased the expression of IL-12/IL-23 subunit p40, IL-23 p19 and IL-12 p35 mRNA in human PBMC. Expression of NK1R and SP in T cells was upregulated by IL-23 but a trend was observed with IL-12. The IL-23 effect likely involves IL-17 production that additionally mediates IL-23 effects. Mutual interactions exist with SP enhancing the cytokines IL-23 and IL-12, and SP and NK1R expression being differentially but potentially synergistically regulated by these cytokines. These findings suggest a proinflammatory role for SP in autoimmune inflammation. We propose a model whereby immunocyte derived SP stimulates Th1 and Th17 autoreactive cells migrating to the central nervous system (CNS), enhances their crossing the blood brain barrier and perpetuates inflammation in the CNS by being released from damaged nerves and activating both resident glia and infiltrating immune cells. SP may be a therapeutic target in MS.