Electrical stimulation of the splenic nerve bundle ameliorates dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis in mice

David J. Brinkman, Thomas Simon, Anne S. ten Hove, Konstantina Zafeiropoulou, Olaf Welting, Patricia H. P. van Hamersveld, Rose A. Willemze, Andrew Y. F. Li Yim, Caroline Verseijden, Theodorus B. M. Hakvoort, Misha D. Luyer, Margriet J. Vervoordeldonk, Philippe Blancou, Wouter J. de Jonge

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Background: Vagus nerve stimulation has been suggested to affect immune responses, partly through a neuronal circuit requiring sympathetic innervation of the splenic nerve bundle and norepinephrine (NE) release. Molecular and cellular mechanisms of action remain elusive. Here, we investigated the therapeutic value of this neuromodulation in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by applying electrical splenic nerve bundle stimulation (SpNS) in mice with dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis. Methods: Cuff electrodes were implanted around the splenic nerve bundle in mice, whereupon mice received SpNS or sham stimulation. Stimulation was applied 6 times daily for 12 days during DSS-induced colitis. Colonic and splenic tissues were collected for transcriptional analyses by qPCR and RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq). In addition, murine and human splenocytes were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the absence or presence of NE. Single-cell RNA-seq data from publicly available data sets were analyzed for expression of β-adrenergic receptors (β-ARs). Results: Colitic mice undergoing SpNS displayed reduced colon weight/length ratios and showed improved Disease Activity Index scores with reduced Tumor Necrosis Factor α mRNA expression in the colon compared with sham stimulated mice. Analyses of splenocytes from SpNS mice using RNA-seq demonstrated specific immune metabolism transcriptome profile changes in myeloid cells. Splenocytes showed expression of β-ARs in myeloid and T cells. Cytokine production was reduced by NE in mouse and human LPS-stimulated splenocytes. Conclusions: Together, our results demonstrate that SpNS reduces clinical features of colonic inflammation in mice with DSS-induced colitis possibly by inhibiting splenic myeloid cell activation. Our data further support exploration of the clinical use of SpNS for patients with IBD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number155
JournalJournal of neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • RNA-sequencing
  • Splenic nerve stimulation

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