Introduction: The spleen is hypothesized to play a role in the autonomic nervous system (ANS)-mediated control of host defence, but the neuroanatomical evidence for this assumption rests on a sparse number of studies, which mutually disagree with respect to the existence of cholinergic or vagal innervation.
Methods: We conducted an immuno- and enzyme-histochemical study of the innervation of the human spleen using a complete hilum-embedding approach to ensure that only nerves that entered or left the spleen were studied, and that all splenic nerves were included in the sampled area. Furthermore, a complete embedded spleen was serially sectioned to prepare a 3D reconstruction of the hilar nerve plexus.
Results: All detected nerves entering the spleen arise from the nerve plexus that surrounds branches of the splenic artery and are catecholaminergic. Inside the spleen these nerves continue within the adventitia of the white pulpal central arteries and red pulpal arterioles. Staining for either choline acetyltransferase or acetylcholinesterase did not reveal any evidence for cholinergic innervation of the human spleen, irrespective of the type of fixation (regularly fixed, fresh-frozen post-fixed or fresh-frozen cryoslides). Furthermore, no positive VIP staining was observed (VIP is often co-expressed in postganglionic parasympathetic nerves).
Conclusion: Our comprehensive approach did not produce any evidence for a direct cholinergic (or VIP-ergic) innervation of the spleen. This finding does not rule out (indirect) vagal innervation via postganglionic non-cholinergic periarterial fibres.
- Autonomic nervous system
- Choline acetyltransferase
- Dopamine beta-hydroxylase
- Tyrosine hydroxylase
- Vagus nerve
- NORADRENERGIC SYMPATHETIC INNERVATION
- EDITOR PARASYMPATHETIC INNERVATION
- RAT SPLEEN
- S-100 PROTEIN
- VAGUS NERVE