Immune-mediated diseases of the CNS and PNS, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, respectively, constitute a major cause of transient and permanent neurological disability in the adult. The aetiology and pathogenesis of these disorders are only partially understood. On a cellular level, focal mononuclear-cell infiltration with demyelination and eventual axonal loss is a crucial pathogenetic event that leads to inflammation and subsequent dysfunction. Here, the evidence that integrins, a family of cell adhesion molecules, expressed on neural and immune cells might play a central role in immune cell recruitment to the CNS and PNS, and probably in tissue repair is reviewed. Distinct integrin expression patterns are observed in multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Therapeutic targeting of integrins has been very successful in the corresponding animal models and holds promise as a novel treatment strategy to combat human immune-mediated disorders of the nervous system.
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