Amino Acids

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 41–53 | Cite as

The intriguing mission of neuropeptide Y in the immune system

  • Mirjana DimitrijevićEmail author
  • Stanislava Stanojević
Invited Review


For many years, the central nervous system and the immune system were considered two autonomous entities. However, extensive research in the field of neuroimmunomodulation during the past decades has demonstrated the presence of different neuropeptides and their respective receptors in the immune cells. More importantly, it has provided evidence for the direct effects of neuropeptides on the immune cell functions. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is generally considered the most abundant peptide in the central and peripheral nervous system. However, it is also distinguished by exhibiting pleiotropic functions in many other physiological systems, including the immune system. NPY affects the functions of the cells of the adaptive and innate immunity. In this respect, NPY is known to modulate immune cell trafficking, T helper cell differentiation, cytokine secretion, natural killer cell activity, phagocytosis and the production of reactive oxygen species. The specific Y receptors have been found in immune cells, and their expression is amplified upon immune stimulation. Different Y receptor subtypes may mediate an opposite effect of NPY on the particular function, thus underlining its regulatory role. Since the immune cells are capable of producing NPY upon appropriate stimulation, this peptide can regulate immune cell functions in an autocrine/paracrine manner. NPY also has important implications in several immune-mediated disorders, which affirms the clear need for further investigation of its role in either the mechanisms of the disease development or its possible therapeutic capacity. This review summarises the key points of NPY’s mission throughout the immune system.


Neuropeptide Y Y receptors Immune cells Infection Inflammation Autoimmunity 



M. Dimitrijević and S. Stanojević are supported by Grant (175050) from the Ministry of Science, Belgrade, Serbia.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera, “Torlak”, Immunology Research Center “Branislav Janković”BelgradeSerbia

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