Detrimental and Beneficial Effects of Injury-Induced Inflammation and Cytokine Expression in the Nervous System

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Abstract

Lesions in the nervous system induce rapid activation of glial cells and under certain conditions additional recruitment of granulocytes, T-cells and monocytes/ macrophages from the blood stream triggered by upregulation of cell adhesion molecules, chemokines and cytokines. Hematogenous cell infiltration is not restricted to infectious or autoimmune disorders of the nervous system, but also occurs in response to cerebral ischemia and traumatic lesions. Neuroinflammation can cause neuronal damage, but also confers neuroprotection.

Granulocytes occlude vessels during reperfusion after transient focal ischemia, while the functional role of T-cells and macrophages in stroke development awaits further clarification. After focal cerebral ischemia neurotoxic mediators released by microglia such as the inducible nitric oxide synthase (leading to NO synthesis) and the cytokines interleukin-1ß (IL-ß) and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-α) are upregulated prior to cellular inflammation in the evolving lesion and functionally contribute to secondary infarct growth as revealed by numerous pharmacological experiments and by use of transgenic animals. On the other hand, cytokine induction remote from ischemic lesions involves NMDA-mediated signalling pathways and confers neuroprotection. After nerve injury T cells can rescue CNS neurons. In the peripheral nervous system neuroinflammation is a prerequisite for successful regeneration that is impeded in the CNS. In conclusion, there is increasing evidence that neuroinflammation represents a double edged sword. The opposing neurotoxic and neuroprotective properties of neuroinflammation during CNS injury provide a rich and currently unexplored set of research problems.