Pro-opiomelanocortin-derived peptides, cytokines, and nitric oxide in immune responses and stress: An evolutionary approach

E. Ottaviani, A. Franchini, C. Franceschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In vertebrates, including man, the study of stress has contributed substantially to unravelling the complex relationship between immune-neuroendocrine interactions and the systems involved. On the basis of data on the presence and distribution of the main actors (POMC products, cytokines, biogenic amines, and steroid hormones) in different species and taxa from invertebrates to vetebrates, we argue that these responses have been deeply connected and interrelated since the beginning of life. Moreover, the study of nitric oxide suggests that the inflammatory reaction is located precisely between the immune and stress responses, sharing the same fundamental evolutionary roots. The major argument in favor of this hypothesis is that the immune, stress, and inflammation responses appear to be mediated by a common pool of molecules that have been conserved throughout evolution and that form a network of adaptive mechanisms. One cell type, the macrophage, appears to emerge as that most capable of supporting this network critical for survival; it was probably a major target of selective pressure. All these data fit the unitarian hypothesis we propose, by which evolution favors what has been conserved, rather than what has changed, as far as both molecules and functions are concerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-141
Number of pages63
JournalInternational Review of Cytology
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Cytokines
  • Evolution
  • Immune responses
  • Inflammation
  • Nitric oxide
  • POMC products
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Histology


Dive into the research topics of 'Pro-opiomelanocortin-derived peptides, cytokines, and nitric oxide in immune responses and stress: An evolutionary approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this