Chemokines are a family of proteins associated with the trafficking of Leukocytes in physiological Immune surveillance and inflammatory cell recruitment in host defence.
They are classified into four classes based on the positions of key cystiene residues: C, CC, CXC, and CX3C. Chemokines act through both specific and shared receptors that all belong to the superfamily of G-protein-coupled receptors.
Besides their well-established role in the Immune System, several recent reports have demonstrated that these proteins also play a role in the Central Nervous System (CNS).
In the CNS, Chemokines are constitutively expressed by Microglial Cells, Astrocytes, and Neurons, and their expression can be increased after induction with inflammatory mediators.
Constitutive expression of Chemokines and Chemokine receptors has been observed in both developing and adult Brains.
And the role played by these proteins in the normal Brain is the object of intense study by many research groups.
Chemokines are involved in Brain development and in the maintenance of normal Brain homeostasis; these proteins play a role in the migration, differentiation, and proliferation of Glial and Neuronal Cells.
The Chemokine Stromal cell-derived factor 1 and its receptor, CXCR4, are essential for life during development.
And this Ligand-receptor pair has been shown to have a fundamental role in Neuron migration during Cerebellar formation.
Chemokine and Chemokine receptor expression can be increased by inflammatory mediators, and this has in turn been associated with several acute and chronic inflammatory conditions.
In the CNS, Chemokines play an essential role in NeuroInflammation as mediators of Leukocyte infiltration.
Their overexpression has been implicated in different Neurological Disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Trauma, Stroke, Alzheimer's Disease, tumor progression, and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome-Associated Dementia.
An emerging area of interest for Chemokine action is represented by the communication between the NeuroEndocrine and the Immune System.
Chemokines have Hormone-like actions, specifically regulating the key host PhysioPathological responses of fever and appetite.
It is now evident that Chemokines and their receptors represent a plurifunctional family of proteins whose actions on the CNS are not restricted to NeuroInflammation.
These molecules constitute crucial regulators of cellular communication in physiological and developmental processes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.