1. The cytotoxic activity of splenic natural killer cells measured by a standard chromium release assay in urethane and alpha‐chloralose‐anaesthetized rats was significantly suppressed 20 min after bilateral ablation of the medial part of the preoptic hypothalamus (MPO). The suppression was completely blocked by prior splenic denervation. The splenic natural killer cell activity of MPO sham‐lesioned rats or thalamus‐lesioned rats, both having an intact splenic innervation, were not different from that of a non‐treated control group. 2. Electrical stimulation of the bilateral MPO (0.1 ms, 0.1‐0.3 mA, 5‐100 Hz) suppressed the efferent activity of the splenic nerve in all six rats examined. The reduction of the nerve activity was accompanied by a transient fall in blood pressure. An I.V. injection of phenylephrine (3 micrograms/0.3 ml) also evoked a suppression of the nerve activity, which was accompanied by transient hypertension, suggesting that the suppressive effect of the MPO stimulation was independent of changes in blood pressure. On the other hand, a bilateral lesion of the MPO resulted in a sustained increase in the electrical activity of the splenic sympathetic nerve filaments which lasted for more than 2 h. 3. Microinjection of monosodium‐L‐glutamate (0.1 and 0.01 M in 0.1 microliters saline) unilaterally into the MPO evoked a transient suppression of the efferent discharge rate of the splenic nerve activity within 1 min, which was also accompanied by a decrease in blood pressure. The injection of saline (0.1 microliter) into the MPO had no effect. The microinjection of recombinant human interferon‐alpha (200 and 2000 U in 0.1 microliter saline) into the MPO dose dependently increased the splenic nerve activity without any change in blood pressure. 4. In contrast, microinjection of interferon‐alpha into the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) had no effect on splenic nerve activity, although an injection of glutamate increased the nerve activity. 5. The present results, taken together with previous reports, suggest that the neuronal networks between the MPO and the splenic sympathetic nerve, which may be activated by centrally administered interferon‐alpha, are important in the suppression of the splenic cellular immunity.
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