In recent years, inflammation has become implicated as a major pathogenic factor in the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease. Understanding the precise role for inflammation in PD will likely lead to understanding of how sporadic disease arises. In vivo evidence for inflammation in PD includes microglial activation, increased expression of inflammatory genes in the periphery and in the central nervous system (CNS), infiltration of peripheral immune cells into the CNS, and altered composition and phenotype of peripheral immune cells. These findings are recapitulated in various animal models of PD and are reviewed herein. Furthermore, we examine the potential relevance of PD-linked genetic mutations to altered immune function and the extent to which environmental exposures that recapitulate these phenotypes, which may lead to sporadic PD through similar mechanisms. Given the implications of immune system involvement on disease progression, we conclude by reviewing the evidence supporting the potential efficacy of immunomodulatory therapies in PD prevention or treatment. There is a clear need for additional research to clarify the role of immunity and inflammation in this chronic, neurodegenerative disease.
Keywords: Immune system; Parkinson's disease; adaptive immunity; immunomodulation; inflammation; lymphocytes.