Motor neuron-immune interactions: the vicious circle of ALS

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2010 Aug;117(8):981-1000. doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0429-0. Epub 2010 Jun 15.


Because microglial cells, the resident macrophages of the CNS, react to any lesion of the nervous system, they have for long been regarded as potential players in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the most common motor neuron disease in the adult. In recent years, this microglial reaction to motor neuron injury, in particular, and the innate immune response, in general, has been implicated in the progression of the disease, in mouse models of ALS. The mechanisms by which microglial cells influence motor neuron death in ALS are still largely unknown. Microglial activation increases over the course of the disease and is associated with an alteration in the production of toxic factors and also neurotrophic factors. Adding to the microglial/macrophage response to motor neuron degeneration, the adaptive immune system can likewise influence the disease process. Exploring these motor neuron-immune interactions could lead to a better understanding in the physiopathology of ALS to find new pathways to slow down motor neuron degeneration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / immunology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / metabolism
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / pathology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / pathology*
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology