Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 129, Issue 5, pp 625–637 | Cite as

The role of IL-17 in CNS diseases

  • Ari Waisman
  • Judith Hauptmann
  • Tommy Regen


Cytokines of the IL-17 family are uniquely placed on the border between immune cells and tissue. Although IL-17 was originally found to induce the activation and mobilization of neutrophils to sites of inflammation, its tissue-specific function is not yet fully understood. The best-studied IL-17 family members, IL-17A and IL-17F, are both typically produced by immune cells such as Th17, γδ T cells and innate lymphoid cells group 3. However, the cells that respond to these cytokines are mostly found in inflamed tissue. As seen in psoriatic skin lesions or in joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients, high levels of IL-17 have been detected in the central nervous system (CNS) during inflammatory responses. Here, we provide a general review of the molecular function of IL-17 and its role in the CNS in particular. Of the different inflammatory conditions of the CNS, we found multiple sclerosis (MS) to be the one most associated with the presence of Th17 cells and IL-17. In particular, many studies using the murine model for MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, found a clear association of Th17 and IL-17 with disease severity and progression. We summarize the recent advances made in correlating the presence of IL-17 with impaired blood–brain barrier integrity as well as the activation of astrocytes and microglia and the consequences for disease progression. There is also evidence that IL-17 plays a pathogenic role in the post-ischemic phase of stroke as well as its experimental model. We review the limited but promising data on the sources of post-stroke IL-17 production and its effects on CNS-resident target cells. In addition to MS and stroke, there is also evidence linking high levels of IL-17 to depression, as a frequent comorbidity of several inflammatory diseases, as well as to different types of infections of the CNS. The evidence we supply here suggests that inhibiting the function of the IL-17 cytokine family could have a beneficial effect on pathogenic conditions in the CNS.


CNS IL-17 Glia Neurons Inflammation 



The authors are thankful to Christie Dietz for careful proofreading of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Research Unit (FOR) 1336 and the SFB/TRR128 to AW and in addition by the EU ITN project Neurokine to AW. AW is a member of the Research Center for Immunotherapy (FZI) and the Focal program in Translational Neuroscience (FTN) of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Molecular MedicineUniversity Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg-University MainzMainzGermany

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