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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 320519, 11 pages
Review Article

Immune Privilege as an Intrinsic CNS Property: Astrocytes Protect the CNS against T-Cell-Mediated Neuroinflammation

1Institute of Behavioural Physiology, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, 18196 Dummerstorf, Germany
2Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, Cruciform Building, Gower Street, London WC1 6BT, UK
3Experimental Pediatrics, University Hospital, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Leipziger Straße 44, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany

Received 21 February 2013; Accepted 9 July 2013

Academic Editor: Jonathan P. Godbout

Copyright © 2013 Ulrike Gimsa 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.


Astrocytes have many functions in the central nervous system (CNS). They support differentiation and homeostasis of neurons and influence synaptic activity. They are responsible for formation of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and make up the glia limitans. Here, we review their contribution to neuroimmune interactions and in particular to those induced by the invasion of activated T cells. We discuss the mechanisms by which astrocytes regulate pro- and anti-inflammatory aspects of T-cell responses within the CNS. Depending on the microenvironment, they may become potent antigen-presenting cells for T cells and they may contribute to inflammatory processes. They are also able to abrogate or reprogram T-cell responses by inducing apoptosis or secreting inhibitory mediators. We consider apparently contradictory functions of astrocytes in health and disease, particularly in their interaction with lymphocytes, which may either aggravate or suppress neuroinflammation.