The adaptive immune system in diseases of the central nervous system

J Clin Invest. 2012 Apr;122(4):1172-9. doi: 10.1172/JCI58648. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


Tissues of the CNS, such as the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord, may be affected by a range of insults including genetic, autoimmune, infectious, or neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The immune system is involved in the pathogenesis of many of these, either by causing tissue damage or alternatively by responding to disease and contributing to repair. It is clearly vital that cells of the immune system patrol the CNS and protect against infection. However, in contrast to other tissues, damage caused by immune pathology in the CNS can be irreparable. The nervous and immune systems have, therefore, coevolved to permit effective immune surveillance while limiting immune pathology. Here we will consider aspects of adaptive immunity in the CNS and the retina, both in the context of protection from infection as well as cancer and autoimmunity, while focusing on immune responses that compromise health and lead to significant morbidity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / immunology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Models, Immunological
  • Models, Neurological
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System / immunology*
  • Retina / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology