Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 824–839 | Cite as

Immune Players in the CNS: The Astrocyte

  • Cathy J. JensenEmail author
  • Ann Massie
  • Jacques De Keyser


In the finely balanced environment of the central nervous system astrocytes, the most numerous cell type, play a role in regulating almost every physiological system. First found to regulate extracellular ions and pH, they have since been shown to regulate neurotransmitter levels, cerebral blood flow and energy metabolism. There is also growing evidence for an essential role of astrocytes in central immunity, which is the topic of this review. In the healthy state, the central nervous system is potently anti-inflammatory but under threat astrocytes readily respond to pathogens and to both sterile and pathogen-induced cell damage. In response, astrocytes take on some of the roles of immune cells, releasing cyto- and chemokines to influence effector cells, modulating the blood–brain barrier and forming glial scars. To date, much of the data supporting a role for astrocytes in immunity have been obtained from in vitro systems; however data from experimental models and clinical samples support the suggestion that astrocytes perform similar roles in more complex environments. This review will discuss some aspects of the role of astrocytes in central nervous system immunity.


Astrocyte Immunity Cytokine Chemokine APC PAMP Astrogliosis 



The authors wish to thank Dr Scott Preiss and Ms Wendy Stroop for their thoughtful reading of the manuscript and the insightful comments that they provided.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy J. Jensen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ann Massie
    • 2
  • Jacques De Keyser
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, Center for NeurosciencesVrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, Center for NeurosciencesVrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyUniversitair Medisch Centrum Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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