Abstract. Straub RH, Cutolo M, Buttgereit F, Pongratz G (University Hospital Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany; University of Genova, Genova, Italy; and Charité University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany). Energy regulation and neuroendocrine–immune control in chronic inflammatory diseases (Review). J Intern Med 2010; 267:543–560.
Energy regulation (EnR) is most important for homoeostatic regulation of physiological processes. Neuroendocrine pathways are involved in EnR. We can separate factors that provide energy-rich fuels to stores [parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, oestrogens, androgens and osteocalcin] and those that provide energy-rich substrates to consumers [sympathetic nervous system (SNS), hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, thyroid hormones, glucagon and growth hormone]. In chronic inflammatory diseases (CIDs), balanced energy-rich fuel allocation to stores and consumers, normally aligned with circadian rhythms, is largely disturbed due to the vast fuel consumption of an activated immune system (up to 2000 kJ day−1). Proinflammatory cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor or interleukins 1β and 6, circulating activated immune cells and sensory nerve fibres signal immune activation to the rest of the body. This signal is an appeal for energy-rich fuels as regulators are switched on to supply energy-rich fuels (‘energy appeal reaction’). During evolution, adequate EnR evolved to cope with nonlife-threatening diseases, not with CIDs (huge negative selection pressure and reduced reproduction). Thus, EnR is inadequate in CIDs leading to many abnormalities, including sickness behaviour, anorexia, hypovitaminosis D, cachexia, cachectic obesity, insulin resistance, hyperinsulinaemia, dyslipidaemia, fat deposits near inflamed tissue, hypoandrogenaemia, mild hypercortisolaemia, activation of the SNS (hypertension), CID-related anaemia and osteopenia. Many of these conditions can contribute to the metabolic syndrome. These signs and symptoms become comprehensible in the context of an exaggerated call for energy-rich fuels by the immune system. We propose that the presented pathophysiological framework may lead to new therapeutical approaches and to a better understanding of CID sequence.