The localization of sensory nerve fibers and receptor binding sites for sensory neuropeptides in canine mesenteric lymph nodes

Paul Popper, Christopher R. Mantyh, Steven R. Vigna, John E. Maggio, Patrick W. Mantyh

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Previous work has established that the central nervous system can modulate the immune response. Direct routes through which this regulation may occur are the sympathetic and sensory innervation of lymphoid organs. We investigated the innervation of canine mesenteric lymph nodes using immunohistochemistry and the expression of binding sites for sensory neuropeptides using quantitative receptor autoradiography. The sympathetic innervation of lymph nodes was examined by immunohistochemical methods using an antiserum directed against tyrosine hydroxylase (TOH), the rate limiting enzyme in catecholamine synthesis. TOH-containing fibers were associated with 90% of the blood vessels (arteries, veins, arterioles and venules) in the hilus, medullary and internodular regions of lymph nodes and in trabeculae with no obvious relationship to blood vessels. The sensory innervation of lymph nodes was investigated using antisera directed against the putative sensory neurotransmitters calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP). CGRP- and SP-containing fibers were detected in the hilus, the medullary region, and the internodular region of lymph nodes usually in association with arterioles and venules. About 50% of the arterioles and venules exhibited a CGRP innervation and a smaller fraction (5-10%) were innervated by SP-containing fibers. Few if any TOH, CGRP, and SP nerve fibers were detected in the germinal centers of lymph nodes. Using quantitative receptor autoradiography we studied the distribution of receptor binding sites for the sensory neuropeptides CGRP, SP, substance K (SK), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), somatostatin (SOM), and bombesin. Specific CGRP binding sites were expressed throughout lymph nodes by trabeculae, arterioles, venules and 25% of the germinal centers. SP receptor binding sites were localized to arterioles and venules in the T cell regions and 25-30% of the germinal centers. VIP binding sites were localized to the internodular and T cell regions, to medullary cords, and to 10-20% of germinal centers. SK, SOM, and bombesin binding sites were not detected in the lymph nodes, although receptor binding sites for these peptides were detected with high specific/nonspecific binding ratios in other canine peripheral tissues. Taken together with previous results these findings suggest that the sympathetic and sensory innervation of mesenteric lymph nodes appears to be involved with the regulation of their blood and lymph flow. The neuropeptide receptor binding sites in lymph node germinal centers may be expressed by lymphocytes upon activation by antigens. This suggests that the sensory innervation at the site of injury or infection may play a role in the regulation of the immune response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988



  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide
  • Lymph nodes
  • Receptors
  • Substance P
  • Vasoactive intestinal peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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