Since the initial cloning of fractalkine/CX3CL1, it was proposed that the only known member of the CX3C or δ subfamily of chemotactic cytokines could play some significant role in the nervous system, due to its high expression on neurons. The pivotal description of the localization of the unique CX3CL1 receptor, CX3CR1, on microglial cells, firmed up by the generation of cx3cr1(GFP/GFP) mice, opened the road to the hypothesis of some specific key interactions between microglia and neurons mediated by this pair. This expectation has been indeed supported by recent exciting evidence indicating that CX3CL1-mediated microglia-neuron interaction modulates basic physiological activities during development, adulthood and aging, including: synaptic pruning; promoting survival of neurons and neural precursors; modulating synaptic transmission and plasticity; enhancing synapse and network maturation; and facilitating the establishment of neuropathic pain circuits. Beyond playing such fascinating roles in physiological conditions, CX3CL1 signaling has been implicated in different neuropathologies. Early papers demonstrated that the levels of CX3CL1 may be modulated by various toxic stimuli in vitro and that CX3CL1 signaling is positively or negatively regulated in EAE and MS, in HIV infection and LPS challenge, in epilepsy, in brain tumors, and in other neuropathologies. In this review we focus on the experimental evidence of CX3CL1 involvement in neuroprotection and survey the common molecular and cellular mechanisms described in different brain diseases.
Keywords: CX3CL1; CX3CR1; microglia; neurotoxicity; signaling.