Innate immunity in the central nervous system

J Clin Invest. 2012 Apr;122(4):1164-71. doi: 10.1172/JCI58644. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


Immune responses in the CNS are common, despite its perception as a site of immune privilege. These responses can be mediated by resident microglia and astrocytes, which are innate immune cells without direct counterparts in the periphery. Furthermore, CNS immune reactions often take place in virtual isolation from the innate/adaptive immune interplay that characterizes peripheral immunity. However, microglia and astrocytes also engage in significant cross-talk with CNS-infiltrating T cells and other components of the innate immune system. Here we review the cellular and molecular basis of innate immunity in the CNS and discuss what is known about how outcomes of these interactions can lead to resolution of infection, neurodegeneration, or neural repair depending on the context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / immunology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain Injuries / immunology
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / immunology
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammasomes / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mice
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Models, Immunological
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Transendothelial and Transepithelial Migration


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammasomes
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Toll-Like Receptors