Glial cell dysregulation: a new perspective on Alzheimer disease

Neurotox Res. 2007 Dec;12(4):215-32. doi: 10.1007/BF03033906.


Alzheimer disease (AD) is a major cause of dementia. Several mechanisms have been postulated to explain its pathogenesis, beta-amyloid (A beta toxicity, cholinergic dysfunction, Tau hyper-phosphorylation, oxidative damage, synaptic dysfunction and inflammation secondary to senile plaques, among others. Glial cells are the major producers of inflammatory mediators, and cytotoxic activation of glial cells is linked to several neurodegenerative diseases; however, whether inflammation is a consequence or the cause of neurodegeneration is still unclear. I propose that inflammation and cellular stress associated with aging are key events in the development of AD through the induction of glial dysfunction. Dysregulated inflammatory response can elicit glial cell activation by compounds which are normally poorly reactive. Inflammation can also be the major cause of defective handling of A beta and the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Here I review evidence that support the proposal that dysfunctional glia and the resulting neuroinflammation can explain many features of AD. Evidence supports the notion that damage caused by inflammation is not only a primary cause of neurodegeneration but also an inducer for the accumulation of A beta in AD. Dysfunctional glia can result in impaired neuronal function in AD, as well as in many progressive neurodegenerative disorders. We show that microglial cell activation is enhanced under pro-inflammatory conditions, indicating that glial cell responses to A beta related proteins can be critically dependent on the priming of glial cells by pro-inflammatory factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / pathology*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Cytokines