Barrier tissue immune responses are regulated in part by nociceptors. Nociceptor ablation alters local immune responses at peripheral sites and within draining lymph nodes (LNs). The mechanisms and significance of nociceptor-dependent modulation of LN function are unknown. Using high-resolution imaging, viral tracing, single-cell transcriptomics, and optogenetics, we identified and functionally tested a sensory neuro-immune circuit that is responsive to lymph-borne inflammatory signals. Transcriptomics profiling revealed that multiple sensory neuron subsets, predominantly peptidergic nociceptors, innervate LNs, distinct from those innervating surrounding skin. To uncover LN-resident cells that may interact with LN-innervating sensory neurons, we generated a LN single-cell transcriptomics atlas and nominated nociceptor target populations and interaction modalities. Optogenetic stimulation of LN-innervating sensory fibers triggered rapid transcriptional changes in the predicted interacting cell types, particularly endothelium, stromal cells, and innate leukocytes. Thus, a unique population of sensory neurons monitors peripheral LNs and may locally regulate gene expression.
Lymph nodes are innervated by a unique population of sensory neurons with immunomodulatory potential