Neurons as targets for T cells in the nervous system

Trends Neurosci. 2013 Jun;36(6):315-24. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2013.01.008. Epub 2013 Mar 13.


Accumulating evidence shows that T cells penetrate the central nervous system (CNS) parenchyma in several autoimmune, infectious, and degenerative neurological diseases. The structural and functional consequences for CNS neurons of their encounter with activated T cells have been investigated in several experimental systems, including ex vivo co-cultures, electrophysiology, and in vivo imaging. Here, we review the modalities of neuron/T cell interactions. We substantiate the contention that T cells are directly responsible for neuronal damage in a large number of neurological diseases and discuss mechanisms of neuronal damage mediated by distinct T cell subsets, the impact of which differs depending on the disease. Finally, we describe how a better understanding of the mechanisms at play offers new possibilities for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Encephalitis, Viral / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Nervous System / immunology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / immunology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / immunology
  • Neurons / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I