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Keywords:

  • inflammation;
  • neuroinflamation;
  • Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting mainly the elderly, although a small proportion of PD patients develop the illness at a much younger age. In the former group, idiopathic PD patients, the causes of the illness have been the subject of longstanding debate with environmental toxins, mitochondrial dysfunction, abnormal protein handling and oxidative stress being suggested. One problem has been that the epidemiology of PD has offered few clues to provide evidence for a single major causative factor. Comparatively recently it has been found that in both patients and experimental models of PD in animals neuroinflammation appears to be a ubiquitous finding. These cases present with all of the classical features of inflammation including phagocyte activation, increased synthesis and release of proinflammatory cytokines and complement activation. Although this process is vital for normal function and protection in both the CNS, as in the periphery, it is postulated that in the aetiology of PD this process may spiral out of control with over activation of microglia, over production of cytokines and other proinflammatory mediators as well as the release of destructive molecules such as reactive oxygen species. Given that dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra are relatively vulnerable to ‘stress’ and the region has a large population of microglia in comparison to other CNS structures, these events may easily trigger neurodegeneration. These factors are examined in this review along with a consideration of the possible use of anti-inflammatory drugs in PD.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2007) 150, 963–976. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707167