Immune system responses in Parkinson's Disease: early and dynamic

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  • Malú G Tansey, Department of Physiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, 30030, USA.
  • ,
  • Marina Romero-Ramos

The neuropathological hallmarks of Parkinson's disease (PD) are the degeneration and death of dopamine-producing neurons in the ventral midbrain, the widespread intraneuronal aggregation of alpha-synuclein (α) in Lewy bodies and neurites, neuroinflammation, and gliosis. Signs of microglia activation in the PD brain postmortem as well as during disease development revealed by neuroimaging, implicate immune responses in the pathophysiology of the disease. Intensive research during the last two decades has advanced our understanding of the role of these responses in the disease process, yet many questions remain unanswered. A transformative finding in the field has been the confirmation that in vivo microglia are able to respond directly to pathological a-syn aggregates but also to neuronal dysfunction due to intraneuronal a-syn toxicity well in advance of neuronal death. In addition, clinical research and disease models have revealed the involvement of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Indeed, the data suggest that PD leads not only to a microglia response, but also to a cellular and humoral peripheral immune response. Together, these findings compel us to consider a more holistic view of the immunological processes associated with the disease. Central and peripheral immune responses aimed at maintaining neuronal health will ultimately have consequences on neuronal survival. We will review here the most significant findings that have contributed to the current understanding of the immune response in PD, which is proposed to occur early, involve peripheral and brain immune cells, evolve as neuronal dysfunction progresses, and is likely to influence disease progression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe European journal of neuroscience
Pages (from-to)364-383
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

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    Research areas

  • T-cells, alpha-synuclein, auto-antibodies, microglia, monocytes, neuroinflammation

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