Interleukin-17 modulates Ca2+ currents and neurite outgrowth in sympathetic neurons
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The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is subject to regulation by several neuronal networks, one of which is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), most importantly Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are chronic diseases of the GI tract that result in such functional symptoms as abdominal pain and diarrhea. These symptoms suggest an important role for dysregulation of the SNS in IBD, since this branch of the autonomic nervous system aids in regulation of blood flow, secretion and motility. Inflammatory cytokines that are elevated in the serum and tissue of IBD patients can have wide-ranging effects on neuronal function in vitro, and may be responsible for the functional alterations observed in vivo. With these neuronal alterations in mind, we hypothesized that interleukin-17, a novel cytokine with a central role in the pathogenesis of IBD, modulates the properties of sympathetic neurons innervating the gastrointestinal tract. Using electrophysiological techniques and Ca2+ imaging, we examined the effect of IL-17 on currents passing through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels in neurons from the superior mesenteric ganglion, which innervates the gut, and found that IL-17 inhibited these currents. In parallel, we found that IL-17 enhances the growth of sympathetic neurites in vitro. These effects depend upon activation of the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) pathway, and do not appear to require glial cells. Therefore, dysregulated neural function during IBD may be due to direct effects of IL-17 on sympathetic neurons.