Neuropeptide Y (NPY) has been implicated in the modulation of important features of neuronal physiology, including calcium homeostasis, neurotransmitter release and excitability. Moreover, NPY has been involved as an important modulator of hippocampal and thalamic circuits, receiving particular attention as an endogenous antiepileptic peptide and as a potential master regulator of feeding behavior. NPY not only inhibits excessive glutamate release (decreasing circuitry hyperexcitability) but also protects neurons from excitotoxic cell death. Furthermore, NPY has been involved in the modulation of the dynamics of dentate gyrus and subventricular zone neural stem cell niches. In both regions, NPY is part of the chemical resource of the neurogenic niche and acts through NPY Y1 receptors to promote neuronal differentiation. Interestingly, NPY is also considered a neuroimmune messenger. In this review, we highlight recent evidences concerning paracrine/autocrine actions of NPY involved in neuroprotection, neurogenesis and neuroinflammation. In summary, the three faces of NPY, discussed in the present review, may contribute to better understand the dynamics and cell fate decision in the brain parenchyma and in restricted areas of neurogenic niches, in health and disease.
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