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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2015, Article ID 135342, 15 pages
Review Article

Microglia-Induced Maladaptive Plasticity Can Be Modulated by Neuropeptides In Vivo

1Neuroscience Institute (CNR), Via Vanvitelli 32, 20129 Milano, Italy
2Department of BIOMETRA, University of Milano, Via Vanvitelli 32, 20129 Milano, Italy
3Laboratory of Neuroscience “R. Levi-Montalcini”, Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 2, 20126 Milano, Italy
4SYSBIO Centre of Systems Biology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 2, 20126 Milano, Italy
5NeuroMI Milan Center for Neuroscience, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milano, Italy

Received 27 March 2015; Accepted 25 June 2015

Academic Editor: Stuart C. Mangel

Copyright © 2015 Stefano Morara 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.


Microglia-induced maladaptive plasticity is being recognized as a major cause of deleterious self-sustaining pathological processes that occur in neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases. Microglia, the primary homeostatic guardian of the central nervous system, exert critical functions both during development, in neural circuit reshaping, and during adult life, in the brain physiological and pathological surveillance. This delicate critical role can be disrupted by neural, but also peripheral, noxious stimuli that can prime microglia to become overreactive to a second noxious stimulus or worsen underlying pathological processes. Among regulators of microglia, neuropeptides can play a major role. Their receptors are widely expressed in microglial cells and neuropeptide challenge can potently influence microglial activity in vitro. More relevantly, this regulator activity has been assessed also in vivo, in experimental models of brain diseases. Neuropeptide action in the central nervous system has been associated with beneficial effects in neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory pathological experimental models. This review describes some of the mechanisms of the microglia maladaptive plasticity in vivo and how neuropeptide activity can represent a useful therapeutical target in a variety of human brain pathologies.