Kerstin Lang, Theodore L. Drell, IV, Bernd Niggemann, Kurt S. Zänker, Frank Entschladen


Natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), the functional coordination of which are governed by various signal substances, are crucial in the body’s defense of tumor and virus-infected cells. We investigated the role of various neurotransmitters and hormones on the regulation of functional parameters, including NK cell cytotoxicity, and the migration of NK cells and CTL within a three-dimensional collagen lattice. Using peripheral blood CTL and NK cells, we show that the neurotransmitters endorphin, histamine and substance P increase NK cell cytotoxicity, while norepinephrine inhibits cytotoxicity. Moreover, substance P reduces migratory activity, while norepinephrine increases NK cell and CTL migration. Furthermore, all three steroid hormones which were investigated, namely cortisone, testosterone, and estradiol, had regulatory influence on both cytotoxicity and migration of NK cells. These results further specify the functional basis of the complex interconnection between the immune and neuro-endocrine systems.

© 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Neurotransmitters; Natural killer cells; Cytotoxic T lymphocytes; Cell migration; Cytotoxicity; Activation; Interleukin-2