The hormesis concept demonstrates that in contrast to the toxic effect of high doses of materials, irradiation, etc., low doses of them are beneficial and, in addition, help to eliminate (prevent) the deleterious effect of high doses given after it. By this effect, it is an important factor of (human) evolution protecting man from harmful impacts, similarly to the role of immunity. However, immunity is also continuously influenced by hormetic effects of environmental [chemical (pollutions), physical (background irradiations and heat), etc.] and medical (drugs and therapeutic irradiations) and food interactions. In contrast to earlier beliefs, the no-threshold irradiation dogma is not valid in low-dose domains and here the hormesis concept is valid. Low-dose therapeutic irradiation, as well as background irradiations (by radon spas or moderately far from the epicenter of atomic bomb or nuclear facilities), is rather beneficial than destructive and the fear from them seems to be unreasonable from immunological point of view. Practically, all immune parameters are beneficially influenced by all forms of low-dose radiations.
The role of immune system is to protect the organism from the not built-in program-like alterations inside and against the agents penetrating from outside (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa). These functions were developed and formed during the evolution. Considering these functions, the immune system promotes the lengthening of lifespan and helps longevity. However, some immune functions have been conveyed by men to medical tools (e.g., pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and prevention), especially in our modern age, which help the struggle against microbes, but evolutionarily weaken the immune system. Aging is a gradual slow attrition by autoimmunity, directed by the thymus and regulated by the central nervous system and pineal gland. Considering this, thymus could be a pacemaker of aging. The remodeling of the immune system, which can be observed in elderly people and centenarians, is probably not a cause of aging, but a consequence of it, which helps to suit immunity to the requirements. Oxidative stress also helps the attrition of the immune cells and antioxidants help to prolong lifespan. There are gender differences in the aging of the immune system as well as in the longevity. There is an advantage for women in both cases. This can be explained by hormonal differences (estrogens positively influences both processes); however, social factors are also not excluded. The endocrine disruptor chemicals act similar to estrogens, like stimulating or suppressing immunity and provoking autoimmunity; however, their role in longevity is controversial. There are some drugs (rapamycin, metformin, and selegiline) and antioxidants (as vitamins C and E) that prolong lifespan and also improve immunity. It is difficult to declare that longevity is exclusively dependent on the state of the immune system; however, there is a parallelism between the state of immune system and lifespan. It seems likely that there is not a real decline of immunity during aging, but there is a remodeling of the system according to the claims of senescence. This is manifested in the remaining (sometimes stronger) function of memory cells in contrast to the production and number of the new antigen-reactive naive T-cells.
Ah-receptors (AhRs) recognize and bind foreign environmental molecules as well as some target hormones of other nuclear receptors. As ligands activate transcription factors, they transmit the information on the presence of these molecules by binding to the DNA, which in turn activate xenobiotic metabolism genes. Cross talk with other nuclear receptors or some non-nuclear receptors also activates or inhibits endocrine processes. Immune cells have AhRs by which they are activated for physiological (immunity) or non-physiological (allergy and autoimmunity) processes. They can be imprinted by hormonal or pseudo-hormonal (environmental) factors, which could provoke pathological alterations for life (by faulty perinatal hormonal imprinting). The variety and amount of human-made new environmental molecules (endocrine disruptors) are enormously growing, so the importance of AhR functions is also expanding.
Hormonal imprinting is an epigenetic process which is taking place perinatally at the first encounter between the developing hormone receptors and their target hormones. The hormonal imprinting influences the binding capacity of receptors, the hormone synthesis of the cells, and other hormonally regulated functions, as sexual behavior, aggressivity, empathy, etc. However, during the critical period, when the window for imprinting is open, molecules similar to the physiological imprinters as synthetic hormone analogs, other members of the hormone families, environmental pollutants, etc. can cause faulty imprinting with life-long consequences. The developing immune system, the cells of which also have receptors for hormones, is very sensitive to faulty imprinting, which causes alterations in the antibody and cytokine production, in the ratio of immune cells, in the defense against bacterial and viral infections as well as against malginant tumors. Immune cells (lymphocytes, monocytes, granulocytes and mast cells) are also producing hormones which are secreted into the blood circulation as well as are transported locally (packed transport). This process is also disturbed by faulty imprinting. As immune cells are differentiating during the whole life, faulty imprinting could develop any time, however, the most decisive is the perinatal imprinting. The faulty imprinting is inherited to the progenies in general and especially in the case of immune system. In our modern world the number and amount of arteficial imprinters (e.g. endocrine disruptors and drugs) are enormously increasing. The effects of the faulty imprinters most dangerous to the immune system are shown in the paper. The present and future consequences of the flood of faulty imprintings are unpredictable however, it is discussed.
Immune cells synthesize, store and secrete hormones, which are identical with the hormones of the endocrine glands. These are: the POMC hormones (ACTH, endorphin), the thyroid system hormones (TRH, TSH, T3), growth hormone (GH), prolactin, melatonin, histamine, serotonin, catecholamines, GnRH, LHRH, hCG, renin, VIP, ANG II. This means that the immune cells contain all of the hormones, which were searched at all and they also have receptors for these hormones. From this point of view the immune cells are similar to the unicells (Tetrahymena), so it can be supposed that these cells retained the properties characteristic at a low level of phylogeny while other cells during the evolution accumulated to form endocrine glands. In contrast to the glandular endocrine cells, immune cells are polyproducers and polyreceivers. As they are mobile cells, they are able to transport the stored hormone to different places (packed transport) or attracted by local factors, accumulate in the neighborhood of the target, synthesizing and secreting hormones locally. This is taking place, e.g. in the case of endorphin, where the accumulating immune cells calms pain caused by the inflammation. The targeted packed transport is more economical than the hormone-pouring to the blood circulation of glandular endocrines and the targeting also cares the other receptor-bearing cells timely not needed the effect. Mostly the immune-effects of immune-cell derived hormones were studied (except endorphin), however, it is not exactly cleared, while the system could have scarcely studied important roles in other cases. The evolutionary aspects and the known as well, as possible roles of immune-endocrine system and their hormones are listed and discussed.
The unicellular eukaryote Tetrahymena synthesize, store and secrete biogenic amines (histamine, serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, melatonin) and also can take up amines from the milieu. It also has (G-protein-coupled) receptors (binding sites) for these amines as well, as second messengers. The factors infuencing the mentioned processes are shown. For certain amines the genes and the coded enzymes are demonstrated. The amines influence phagocytosis, cell division, ciliary regeneration, glucose metabolism and chemotaxis. There are interhormone actions between the amines, and between the amines and other hormones produced by Tetrahymena. The critical review discusses the role of amines in the early stages of evolution and compares this to their functions in mammals. It tries to give answer how and why biogenic amines were selected to hormones, and why new functions formed for them in higher ranked animals, preserving also the ancient ones.
The mast cell is a member of the immune system having a basic role in allergic (anaphylactic) reactions. However, it contains, synthesizes, stores and secretes lots of substances, which initiates other reactions or participates in them. These are in connection with the deterioration of tissue correlation, as malignant tumors, angiogenesis, wound healing, pregnancy and different pathological conditions. In addition — as other members of the immune system — mast cells can synthesize, store and secrete hormones characteristic to the endocrine glands and can transport them to the site of requirement (packed transport), or produce and employ them locally. The effect of mast cells is controversial and frequently dual, stimulatory or inhibitory to the same organ or process. This is likely due to the heterogeneity of the mast cells, in morphology and cell content alike and dependent on the actual condition of the targeted tissue. The cells are transported in an unmatured form by the blood circulation and are exposed to microenvironmental effects, which influence their maturation. Their enrichment around tumors suggested using them as targets for tumor therapy more than fifty years ago (by the author), however, this idea lives its renaissance now. The review discusses the facts and ideas critically.
The unicellular ciliate, Tetrahymena has receptors for hormones of the higher ranked animals, these hormones (e.g. insulin, triiodothyronine, ACTH, histamine, etc.) are also produced by it and it has signal pathways and second messengers for signal transmission. These components are chemically and functionally very similar to that of mammalian ones. The exogenously given hormones regulate different functions, as movement, phagocytosis, chemotaxis, cell growth, secretion, excretion and the cells’ own hormone production. The receptors are extremely sensitive, certain hormones are sensed (and response is provoked) at 10−21 M concentration, which makes likely that the function could work by the effect of hormones produced by the Tetrahymena itself. The signal reception is selective, it can differentiate between closely related hormones. The review is listing the hormones produced by the Tetrahymena, the receptors which can receive signals and the signal pathways and second messengers as well, as the known effects of mammalian hormones to the life functions of Tetrahymena. The possible and justified role of hormonal system in the Tetrahymena as a single cell and inside the Tetrahymena population, as a community is discussed. The unicellular hormonal system and mammalian endocrine system are compared and evolutionary conclusions are drawn.
The unicellular ciliate, Tetrahymena has a complete hormonal system. It has receptors for receiving hormones, produces, stores and secretes hormones, similar to mammalian ones and has signal transduction pathways, for transmitting the information given by the hormones. The first encounter with a hormone provokes the hormonal imprinting under the effect of which the further encounters with the same hormone induces altered (usually enhanced) reaction (hormone binding, hormone synthesis, chemoattraction, movement, growth etc.). The effect of imprinting is durable, it can be observed also after 1000 generations, or after one year in non-dividing cells. Receptors of the nuclear envelope also can be imprinted. The plasma membrane receptors provoked by imprinting are similar to the receptors of mammals. Although steroid hormones are not present in Tetrahymena, the production of them and their receptors can be induced by imprinting. The hormonal imprinting is an epigenetic process and inhibition of DNA-methylation alters the imprinting. Hormonal imprinting in Tetrahymena was likely the first epigenetic phenomenon which was justified at cellular level. It is very useful for the unicells, as it helps to avoid dangerous molecules more easily or to find useful ones and by this contributes to the permanence of the population’s life.
The first observation on the relationship between the pineal gland and the immune system was done by the author of this paper in the late sixties and early seventies of the last century. After neonatal pinealectomy the thymus has been destroyed and wasting disease developed. Since that time a flood of experiments justified the observation and pointed to the prominent role of pineal in the regulation of the immune system. Melatonin, the hormone of the pineal gland stimulates immune processes acting to the immune cells’ cytokine production, the haemopoiesis, and immune cell-target cell interactions. Melatonin receptors have been demonstrated and their localization and function were justified. Melatonin production by and melatonin receptors on (and in) the immune cells was proved. Melatonin agonists have been synthesized and the use of melatonin as adjuvant in the therapy of diseases connected to the immune system (cancers included) has been started. The paper summarizes the most important studies and discusses the interrelations of the data. The discussion points to the possibility of packed transport of the pineal hormone by the immune cells and to the adventages of local regulation by this transport.