Capsaicin, a neurotoxin that depletes primary sensory neurons (polymodal nociceptors) of neuropeptides, was used to explore the role of such neurons on the expression of delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions in mice. BALB/c mice received s.c. injections with capsaicin (100 mg/kg) and tested 1 to 2 wk later exhibited insensitivity to chemically induced irritation (greater than 80% reduction in the eye-wiping response for more than 15 wk) as well as loss (greater than 95% reduction) of the ear swelling response to topical capsaicin. Early (less than or equal to 4 h) ear swelling to topical DNFB and oxazolone was also markedly reduced by capsaicin pretreatment, suggesting neurogenic inflammation as a major component of the early irritant reaction to haptens. In contrast, capsaicin-pretreated mice exhibited enhanced contact sensitivity (CS) reactions to oxazolone (greater than 90%) and DNFB (greater than 50%) and enhanced delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions to SRBC (greater than 20%). Adoptive transfer experiments revealed that CS augmentation was not due to generation of increased numbers and/or activity of effector T cells. Histologic studies as well as experiments measuring migration of 51Cr-labeled, Ag-nonspecific cells showed increased edema and enhanced cell localization in CS elicitation sites in capsaicin-pretreated mice. These results indicate that peptidergic neurons, via neuropeptide release, regulate the expression of T cell-mediated, delayed-in-time, cutaneous inflammatory reactions. The net effect of these neurons on the late (cellular) phase of such responses seems to be suppressive, because their impairment results in augmented reactions.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.