Neuropeptide Y potentiates T-Lymphocyte inflammation after psychological trauma Academic Article uri icon


  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by severe behavioral alterations, but also demonstrates elevated levels of systemic inflammation, sympathoexcitation, and a potentiated risk for autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. These physiological changes suggest perturbations to the immune system, however, the signaling mechanisms linking psychological trauma to the immune system are not well understood. Utilizing a pre-clinical mouse model of PTSD known as repeated social defeat stress (RSDS), we previously demonstrated that psychological trauma causes robust T-lymphocyte-driven inflammation in the spleen as evidenced by increased pro-inflammatory cytokine production (primarily interleukin 17A, IL-17A), inflammatory polarization, and enhanced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species. Moreover, targeted denervation of the spleen was able to completely ablate this T-lymphocyte inflammatory response after psychological trauma, suggesting the signal was autonomic and neural in nature. Given that the splenic nerve possesses only sympathetic neurons (no direct parasympathetic innervation), we hypothesized that psychological trauma mediates splenic T-lymphocyte inflammation via enhanced release of sympathetic neurotransmitters. To test this, we first exposed nave primary T-lymphocytes to various sympathetic catecholamines, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Contrary to our original hypothesis, we observed no significant changes in IL-17A expression or mitochondria reactive oxygen species. Next, we assessed the physiological response of nave T-lymphocytes exposed to neuropeptide Y (NPY) given its role in both sympathoexcitation as well as in PTSD. Interestingly, nave T-lymphocytes treated with NPY also demonstrated no effect, but when NPY was given in combination of norepinephrine, we observed both an increase in IL-17A gene expression (~2 fold) and intracellular redox (~2 fold). To further investigate this effect, we examined NPY levels in our RSDS mouse model over-time. Circulating NPY levels spiked immediately after only one day of RSDS (~4.5 fold, p=0.0317) but steadily declined over the remaining 10 day psychological trauma induction. Intriguingly, NPY levels were strongly correlated with both circulating IL-17A and T-lymphocyte mitochondrial reactive oxygen species levels after RSDS, supporting our in vitro observations. Overall, these data suggest NPY may be playing a critical role in shaping the inflammatory milieu after psychological trauma, which may enhance the likelihood of inflammatory comorbidities. NIH R01HL158521 This is the full abstract presented at the American Physiology Summit 2023 meeting and is only available in HTML format. There are no additional versions or additional content available for this abstract. Physiology was not involved in the peer review process.

published proceedings

  • Physiology

author list (cited authors)

  • Lauten, T., Reed, E., Elkhatib, S., Moshfegh, C., Clopp, A., & Case, A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Lauten, Tatlock||Reed, Emily||Elkhatib, Safwan||Moshfegh, Cassandra||Clopp, Amelia||Case, Adam

publication date

  • May 2023