Cellular and Molecular Biology




Connecting cytokines and brain: A review of current issues

N. Quan1 and M. Herkenham2

1Department of Oral Biology, Ohio State University, Columbus and 2Section on Functional Neuroanatomy, NIMH, Bethesda, USA

Offprint requests to: Ning Quan, 2214 Postle Hall, 305 W. 12th Avenue, Department of Oral Biology, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Fax: 614-292-6087. e-mail: quan.14@osu.edu


Summary. Cytokines have been a multi-disciplinary research focus for over 2 decades. To date, there have been more than 15000 articles published concerning the relationship between cytokines and the central nervous system (CNS). Over half of these articles have been published in the last 5 years. From such vast number of studies, two major topics emerge as the critical issues: 1) how do cytokines modulate the functions of the CNS? 2) what is the role of cytokines in the pathogenesis of neurological diseases? Thus far, it has been clearly established that cytokines can alter the functions of the CNS in specific manners, invoking CNS-controlled autonomic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral responses. Induced expression of cytokines has also been found in the CNS during brain injury and infection, contributing to the immunological processes at this "immunologically privileged" site. Furthermore, increasing evidence points to the potential involvement of cytokines in the induction and modulation of an array of neurological diseases ranging from Alzheimer's disease to chronic fatigue syndrome. Despite such progress, however, substantial obstacles remain for both the basic understanding and the potential clinical exploitation of how cytokines interact with CNS. In this review, we will attempt to synopsize the current theories and evidence regarding the answers to the above-mentioned critical questions. These issues will be reviewed not only in isolation, as most of the original reports focused on only one of the questions, but also in parallel such that inter-issue insights may be gained. Histol. Histopathol. 17, 273-288 (2002)

Key words: IL-1, TNF, Neuroimmune communication, Neurodegeneration

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