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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2013, Article ID 309302, 8 pages
Review Article

Sphingolipids and Brain Resident Macrophages in Neuroinflammation: An Emerging Aspect of Nervous System Pathology

1Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, Unit of Clinical Pharmacology, CNR Institute of Neuroscience, “Luigi Sacco” University Hospital, University of Milan, 20157 Milan, Italy
2E. Medea Scientific Institute, 23842 Bosisio Parini, Italy
3Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-Food and Forest Systems (DIBAF), University of Tuscia, 01100 Viterbo, Italy

Received 23 May 2013; Accepted 1 August 2013

Academic Editor: Daniel Larocque

Copyright © 2013 Emma Assi 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.


Sphingolipid metabolism is deeply regulated along the differentiation and development of the central nervous system (CNS), and the expression of a peculiar spatially and temporarily regulated sphingolipid pattern is essential for the maintenance of the functional integrity of the nervous system. Microglia are resident macrophages of the CNS involved in general maintenance of neural environment. Modulations in microglia phenotypes may contribute to pathogenic forms of inflammation. Since defects in macrophage/microglia activity contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, it will be essential to systematically identify the components of the microglial cell response that contribute to disease progression. In such complex processes, the sphingolipid systems have recently emerged to play important roles, thus appearing as a key new player in CNS disorders. This review provides a rationale for harnessing the sphingolipid metabolic pathway as a potential target against neuroinflammation.