Perspectives on neuroinflammation and excitotoxicity: A neurotoxic conspiracy?

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Emerging evidences underline the ability of several environmental contaminants to induce an inflammatory response within the central nervous system, named neuroinflammation. This can occur as a consequence of a direct action of the neurotoxicant to the CNS and/or as a response secondary to the activation of the peripheral inflammatory response. In both cases, neuroinflammation is driven by the release of several soluble factors among which pro-inflammatory cytokines. IL-1β and TNF-α have been extensively studied for their effects within the CNS and emerged for their role in the modulation of the neuronal response, which allow the immune response to integrate with specific neuronal functions, as neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity. In particular, it has been evidenced a potential detrimental link between these cytokines and the glutamatergic system that seems to be part of increased brain excitability and excitotoxicity occurring in different pathological conditions. Aim of this mini-review will be to present experimental evidence on the way IL-1β and TNF-α impact neurons, focusing on the glutamatergic signalling, to provide a perspective on novel pathways possibly involved in environmental contaminants neurotoxicity.

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