Anti-inflammatory effects of vagal nerve stimulation with a special attention to intestinal barrier dysfunction

Author: Bruno Bonaz1,2
1 Division of Hepato-Gastroenterology, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France.
2 Grenoble Institute of Neurosciences, Inserm U1216, University Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France.
Conference/Journal: Neurogastroenterol Motil
Date published: 2022 Sep 12
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/nmo.14456. , Word Count: 271

The vagus nerve (VN), the longest nerve of the organism innervating the gastrointestinal tract, is a mixed nerve with anti-inflammatory properties through its afferents, activating the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, and its efferents through the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNFα) by splenic and gut macrophages. In addition, the VN is also able to modulate the permeability of the intestinal barrier although the VN does not innervate directly the intestinal epithelium. Targeting the VN through VN stimulation (VNS) has been developed in experimental model of intestinal inflammation and in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and might be of interest to decrease intestinal permeability in gastrointestinal disorders with intestinal barrier defect such as IBD, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and celiac disease. In this issue of neurogastroenterology and motility, Mogilevski et al. report that a brief non-invasive transcutaneous auricular VNS in healthy volunteers consistently reduces the permeability of the small intestine induced by intravenous administration of the stress peptide corticotropin releasing hormone, known to increase intestinal permeability and to inhibit the VN. In this review, we outline the mechanistic underpinning the effect of stress, of the VN and VNS on intestinal permeability. In particular, the VN can act on intestinal permeability through enteric nerves, and/or cells such as enteric glial cells. We also review the existing evidence of the effects VNS on intestinal permeability in models such as burn intestinal injury and traumatic brain injury, which pave the way for future clinical trials in IBD, IBS, and celiac disease.

Keywords: cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway; enteric glial cells; inflammation; intestinal barrier; stress; vagal nerve stimulation; vagus nerve.

PMID: 36097404 DOI: 10.1111/nmo.14456