Neuroimmunological processes in Parkinson's disease and their relation to α-synuclein: microglia as the referee between neuronal processes and peripheral immunity

ASN Neuro. 2013 Apr 30;5(2):113-39. doi: 10.1042/AN20120066.


The role of neuroinflammation and the adaptive immune system in PD (Parkinson's disease) has been the subject of intense investigation in recent years, both in animal models of parkinsonism and in post-mortem PD brains. However, how these processes relate to and modulate α-syn (α-synuclein) pathology and microglia activation is still poorly understood. Specifically, how the peripheral immune system interacts, regulates and/or is induced by neuroinflammatory processes taking place during PD is still undetermined. We present herein a comprehensive review of the features and impact that neuroinflamation has on neurodegeneration in different animal models of nigral cell death, how this neuroinflammation relates to microglia activation and the way microglia respond to α-syn in vivo. We also discuss a possible role for the peripheral immune system in animal models of parkinsonism, how these findings relate to the state of microglia activation observed in these animal models and how these findings compare with what has been observed in humans with PD. Together, the available data points to the need for development of dual therapeutic strategies that modulate microglia activation to change not only the way microglia interact with the peripheral immune system, but also to modulate the manner in which microglia respond to encounters with α-syn. Lastly, we discuss the immune-modulatory strategies currently under investigation in animal models of parkinsonism and the degree to which one might expect their outcomes to translate faithfully to a clinical setting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / immunology*
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / immunology*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*


  • alpha-Synuclein