Sympathetic-mediated activation versus suppression of the immune system: Consequences for hypertension

Adam J. Case, Matthew C. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


It is generally well-accepted that the immune system is a significant contributor in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Specifically, activated and pro-inflammatory T-lymphocytes located primarily in the vasculature and kidneys appear to have a causal role in exacerbating elevated blood pressure. It has been proposed that increased sympathetic nerve activity and noradrenaline outflow associated with hypertension may be primary contributors to the initial activation of the immune system early in the disease progression. However, it has been repeatedly demonstrated in many different human and experimental diseases that sympathoexcitation is immunosuppressive in nature. Moreover, human hypertensive patients have demonstrated increased susceptibility to secondary immune insults like infections. Thus, it is plausible, and perhaps even likely, that in diseases like hypertension, specific immune cells are activated by increased noradrenaline, while others are in fact suppressed. We propose a model in which this differential regulation is based upon activation status of the immune cell as well as the resident organ. With this, the concept of global immunosuppression is obfuscated as a viable target for hypertension treatment, and we put forth the concept of focused organ-specific immunotherapy as an alternative option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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