Parkinson's disease: Autoimmunity and neuroinflammation

Autoimmun Rev. 2016 Oct;15(10):1005-11. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2016.07.022. Epub 2016 Aug 4.


Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The resulting dopamine deficiency in the basal ganglia leads to a movement disorder that is characterized by classical parkinsonian motor symptoms. Parkinson's disease is recognized as the most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's disease. PD ethiopathogenesis remains to be elucidated and has been connected to genetic, environmental and immunologic conditions. The past decade has provided evidence for a significant role of the immune system in PD pathogenesis, either through inflammation or an autoimmune response. Several autoantibodies directed at antigens associated with PD pathogenesis have been identified in PD patients. This immune activation may be the cause of, rather than a response to, the observed neuronal loss. Parkinsonian motor symptoms include bradykinesia, muscular rigidity and resting tremor. The non-motor features include olfactory dysfunction, cognitive impairment, psychiatric symptoms and autonomic dysfunction. Microscopically, the specific degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the presence of Lewy bodies, which are brain deposits containing a substantial amount of α-synuclein, have been recognized. The progression of Parkinson's disease is characterized by a worsening of motor features; however, as the disease progresses, there is an emergence of complications related to long-term symptomatic treatment. The available therapies for Parkinson's disease only treat the symptoms of the disease. A major goal of Parkinson's disease research is the development of disease-modifying drugs that slow or stop the neurodegenerative process. Drugs that enhance the intracerebral dopamine concentrations or stimulate dopamine receptors remain the mainstay treatment for motor symptoms. Immunomodulatory therapeutic strategies aiming to attenuate PD neurodegeneration have become an attractive option and warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Inflammation; Lewy bodies; Neurodegenerative disease; Olfactory dysfunction; Parkinson; α-Synuclein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Neurons / immunology
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / immunology*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology