The integrin family of cell adhesion molecules has multiple functions within the CNS



Integrins comprise a large family of cell adhesion molecules that mediate interactions between the extracellular environment and the cytoplasm. During the last decade, analysis of the expression and function of these molecules has revealed that integrins regulate many aspects of cell behavior including cell death, proliferation, migration, and differentiation. Within the central nervous system (CNS), most of the early studies focused on the role of integrins in mediating adhesive and migratory events in two distinct processes: neural development and CNS inflammation. Interestingly, recent analysis of transgenic mice has provided some surprising results regarding the role of integrins in neural development. Furthermore, a large body of evidence now supports the idea that in addition to these well-described functions, integrins play multiple roles in the CNS, both during development and in the adult in areas as diverse as synaptogenesis, activation of microglia, and stabilization of the endothelium and blood-brain barrier. Many excellent reviews have addressed the contribution of integrins in mediating leukocyte extravasation during CNS inflammation. This review will focus on recently emerging evidence of novel and diverse roles of integrins and their ligands in the CNS during development and in the adult, in health and disease. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.