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International Journal of Cell Biology
Volume 2012, Article ID 139573, 11 pages
Review Article

Brain Miffed by Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor

1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schwabachanlage 6, 91054 Erlangen, Germany
2Clinic I for Internal Medicine, University Hospital Cologne, Kerpener Straße 62, 50924 Cologne, Germany

Received 18 May 2012; Revised 6 July 2012; Accepted 12 July 2012

Academic Editor: Pier Giorgio Mastroberardino

Copyright © 2012 Nic E. Savaskan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a cytokine which also exhibits enzymatic properties like oxidoreductase and tautomerase. MIF plays a pivotal role in innate and acquired immunity as well as in the neuroendocrine axis. Since it is involved in the pathogenesis of acute and chronic inflammation, neoangiogenesis, and cancer, MIF and its signaling components are considered suitable targets for therapeutic intervention in several fields of medicine. In neurodegenerative and neurooncological diseases, MIF is a highly relevant, but still a hardly investigated mediator. MIF operates via intracellular protein-protein interaction as well as in CD74/CXCR2/CXCR4 receptor-mediated pathways to regulate essential cellular systems such as redox balance, HIF-1, and p53-mediated senescence and apoptosis as well as multiple signaling pathways. Acting as an endogenous glucocorticoid antagonist, MIF thus represents a relevant resistance gene in brain tumor therapies. Alongside this dual action, a functional homolog-annotated D-dopachrome tautomerase/MIF-2 has been uncovered utilizing the same cell surface receptor signaling cascade as MIF. Here we review MIF actions with respect to redox regulation in apoptosis and in tumor growth as well as its extracellular function with a focus on its potential role in brain diseases. We consider the possibility of MIF targeting in neurodegenerative processes and brain tumors by novel MIF-neutralizing approaches.