Dysfunctional neuroimmune pathways promote the development and maintenance of lupus hypertension




Pham, Grace S.


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Hypertension afflicts nearly half of the adults in the United States and the majority of cases have no known cause. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in the development and maintenance of hypertension, and autoimmunity may comprise one of its sources. Hypertension is highly prevalent in the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), in which chronic aberrant inflammation may be a causative factor. Endogenous neuroimmune pathways, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, likely contribute to this phenomenon. The HPA axis is a classical neuroimmune mechanism that senses peripheral inflammation via afferent vagal fibers, culminating in the release of the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol. Previous studies have characterized HPA axis dysfunction in SLE, but less is known about how this dysregulation specifically impacts the hypertension that occurs in the setting of SLE. A second neuroimmune interaction, the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, is an efferent vagus nerve-to-spleen mechanism that relies on T cell-produced acetylcholine to quell inflammation in acute settings and may be hypoactive in chronic inflammatory diseases like SLE. Notably, both of these neuroimmune mechanisms depend on vagus nerve function, identifying the vagus as a potential target for neuromodulation. Furthermore, the relationship between chronic inflammation and hypertension validates the investigation of neuroimmune pathway dysfunction towards novel mechanisms of hypertension. Herewithin, the HPA axis and cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway are investigated using the well-established NZBWF1 mouse model of lupus hypertension. Our findings are that (1) administration of an inflammatory stimulus that activates vagal afferents elicits comparable neuronal activation in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, compared to control mice, despite heightened peripheral inflammation; (2) amplification of efferent vagus nerve activity reduces blood pressure and renal inflammation; and (3) chronic unilateral vagotomy paradoxically results in decreased blood pressure and renal inflammation. Taken together, these findings identify dysfunction in two neuroimmune pathways while demonstrating that interventions targeting these pathways may have therapeutic benefits in lupus hypertension. In terms of future impact, these results may promote continuing inquiry in a more recently discovered neuroimmune pathway (i.e., cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway), as well as reinstate curiosity in an older, abandoned area of research (i.e., HPA).