The innate immune system is the front line of host defense against microbial infections, but its rapid and uncontrolled activation elicits microbicidal mechanisms that have deleterious effects [1, 2]. Increasing evidence indicates that the metazoan nervous system, which responds to stimuli originating from both the internal and the external environment, functions as a modulatory apparatus that controls not only microbial killing pathways but also cellular homeostatic mechanisms [3–5]. Here we report that dopamine signaling controls innate immune responses through a D1-like dopamine receptor, DOP-4, in Caenorhabditis elegans. Chlorpromazine inhibition of DOP-4 in the nervous system activates a microbicidal PMK-1/p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway that enhances host resistance against bacterial infections. The immune inhibitory function of dopamine originates in CEP neurons and requires active DOP-4 in downstream ASG neurons. Our findings indicate that dopamine signaling from the nervous system controls immunity in a cell-non-autonomous manner and identifies the dopaminergic system as a potential therapeutic target for not only infectious diseases but also a range of conditions that arise as a consequence of malfunctioning immune responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)