Current status of chemokines in the adult CNS

Prog Neurobiol. 2013 May;104:67-92. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Chemokines - chemotactic cytokines - are small secreted proteins that attract and activate immune and non-immune cells in vitro and in vivo. It has been suggested that chemokines and their receptors play a role in the central nervous system (CNS), in addition to their well established role in the immune system. We focus here on three chemokines-CXCL12 (C-X-C motif ligand 12), CCL2 (C-C motif ligand 2), and CX3CL1 (C-X-3C motif ligand 1) - and their principal receptors - CXCR4 (C-X-C motif receptor 4), CCR2 (C-C motif receptor 2) and CX3CR1 (C-X-3C motif receptor 1), respectively. We first introduce the classification of chemokines and their G-protein coupled receptors and the main signaling pathways triggered by receptor activation. We then discuss the cellular distribution of CXCL12/CXCR4, CCL2/CCR2 and CX3CL1/CX3CR1 in adult brain and the neurotransmission and neuromodulation effects controlled by these chemokines in the adult CNS. Changes in the expression of CXCL12, CCL2 and CX3CL1 and their respective receptors are also increasingly being implicated in the pathogenesis of CNS disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, HIV-associated encephalopathy, stroke and multiple sclerosis, and are therefore plausible targets for future pharmacological intervention. The final section thus discusses the role of these chemokines in these pathophysiological states. In conclusion, the role of these chemokines in cellular communication may make it possible: (i) to identify new pathways of neuron-neuron, glia-glia or neuron-glia communications relevant to both normal brain function and neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases; (ii) to develop new therapeutic approaches for currently untreatable brain diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Chemokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Chemokine / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Chemokine