Recent work in many laboratories has revealed that cytokines are important mediators of inflammation, host defense, and tissue injury in a variety of neurological diseases. A role for astrocytes and microglia in these diseases has been considered pivotal, since both cell types readily produce and respond to cytokines in vitro and show morphologic and immunocytochemical evidence for activation in vivo. Although much of the work documenting these events has been generated in rodent systems, our laboratory has focused on human cell culture systems to define the nature of the activating signals for human microglia and astrocytes and their responses to activating cytokines and growth factors and evidence for activation. The results have shown that interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a potent activator of human astrocytes and induces cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6, and is a potent activator of nitric oxide generation in astrocytes. Astrocytes also promote microglial growth and differentiation through production of colony-stimulating factors, an activity that is enhanced following activation with IL-1. This review will summarize the human glia data generated in this and other laboratories and present hypotheses how glia may participate in certain human central nervous system diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience