Chemokines are small secreted proteins that chemoattract and activate immune and non-immune cells both in vivo and in vitro. Besides their well-established role in the immune system, several recent reports have suggested that chemokines and their receptors may also play a role in the central nervous system (CNS). The best-known central action is their ability to act as immuno-inflammatory mediators. Indeed, these proteins regulate the leukocyte infiltration in the brain during inflammatory and infectious diseases. However, recent studies clearly demonstrate that chemokines and their receptors are constitutively expressed by glial and neuronal cells in the CNS, where they are involved in intercellular communication. The goal of this review is to summarize recent information concerning the role of chemokines in brain functions. The first part will focus on the expression of chemokines and their receptors in the CNS with the main spotlight on the neuronal expression. In the second part, we will discuss the role of chemokines and their receptors in normal brain physiology. Because several chemokines are involved in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders, the role of chemokines and their receptors in these diseases is reviewed further in this section. In conclusion, the implication of chemokines in cellular communication could allow: i) to identify a new pathway for neuron-neuron and/or glia-glia and/or neuron-glia communications that are relevant to both normal brain function and neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases; ii) to develop new therapeutic approaches for still untreatable diseases further.
Keywords: chemokine, chemokine receptor, central nervous system, neuron, neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, neuromodulation, neuronal activity
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