Neuroinflammatory processes in Alzheimer's disease

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2010 Aug;117(8):919-47. doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0438-z. Epub 2010 Jul 15.


Generation of neurotoxic amyloid beta peptides and their deposition along with neurofibrillary tangle formation represent key pathological hallmarks in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recent evidence suggests that inflammation may be a third important component which, once initiated in response to neurodegeneration or dysfunction, may actively contribute to disease progression and chronicity. Various neuroinflammatory mediators including complement activators and inhibitors, chemokines, cytokines, radical oxygen species and inflammatory enzyme systems are expressed and released by microglia, astrocytes and neurons in the AD brain. Degeneration of aminergic brain stem nuclei including the locus ceruleus and the nucleus basalis of Meynert may facilitate the occurrence of inflammation in their projection areas given the antiinflammatory and neuroprotective action of their key transmitters norepinephrine and acetylcholine. While inflammation has been thought to arise secondary to degeneration, recent experiments demonstrated that inflammatory mediators may stimulate amyloid precursor protein processing by various means and therefore can establish a vicious cycle. Despite the fact that some aspects of inflammation may even be protective for bystander neurons, antiinflammatory treatment strategies should therefore be considered. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to reduce the risk and delay the onset to develop AD. While, the precise molecular mechanism underlying this effect is still unknown, a number of possible mechanisms including cyclooxygenase 2 or gamma-secretase inhibition and activation of the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma may alone or, more likely, in concert account for the epidemiologically observed protection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / immunology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / therapy
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / immunology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / immunology
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Chromogranin A / immunology
  • Chromogranin A / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / therapeutic use
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / immunology


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Chromogranin A
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Cyclooxygenase 2