Immune surveillance in the central nervous system

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jul 26;15(8):1096-101. doi: 10.1038/nn.3161.


The CNS, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, is continuously monitored by resident microglia and blood-borne immune cells such as macrophages, dendritic cells and T cells to detect for damaging agents that would disrupt homeostasis and optimal functioning of these vital organs. Further, the CNS must balance between vigilantly detecting for potentially harmful factors and resolving any immunological responses that in themselves can create damage if left unabated. We discuss the physiological roles of the immune sentinels that patrol the CNS, the molecular markers that underlie their surveillance duties, and the consequences of interrupting their functions following injury and infection by viruses such as JC virus, human immunodeficiency virus, herpes simplex virus and West Nile virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System* / immunology
  • Central Nervous System* / pathology
  • Central Nervous System* / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / immunology*