First identified by Said and Mutt some 30 years ago, the vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) was originally isolated as a vasodilator peptide. Subsequently, its biochemistry was elucidated, and within the 1st decade, their signature features as a neuropeptide became consolidated. It did not take long for these insights to permeate the field of immunology, out of which surprising new attributes for VIP were found in the last years. VIP is rapidly transforming into something more than a mere hormone. In evolving scientifically from a hormone to a novel agent for modifying immune function and possibly a cytokine-like molecule, VIP research has engaged many physiologists, molecular biologists, biochemists, endocrinologists, and pharmacologists and it is a paradigm to explore mutual interactions between neural and neuroendocrine links in health and disease. The aim of this review is firstly to update our knowledge of the cellular and molecular events relevant to VIP function on the immune system and secondly to gather together recent data that support its role as a type 2 cytokine. Recognition of the central functions VIP plays in cellular processes is focusing our attention on this “very important peptide” as exciting new candidates for therapeutic intervention and drug development.
- The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics