Fractalkine in the nervous system: Neuroprotective or neurotoxic molecule?

Clotilde Lauro, Myriam Catalano, Flavia Trettel, Cristina Limatola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fractalkine (CX3CL1) is an intriguing chemokine that plays a central role in the nervous system. The expression of CX3CL1 on neurons and of its receptor CX3CR1 on microglia facilitates a privileged interaction, playing important roles in regulating the function and maturation of these cells. CX3CL1 is reported to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activities in several experimental systems and animal models of disease, and its expression correlates with positive outcomes in human neuropathologies. However, a comparable amount of evidence shows that CX3CL1 sustains neuroinflammatory conditions and contributes to neurotoxicity. This review discusses the evidence in favor of the CX3CL1/CX3CR1 pair being neuroprotective and other evidence that it is neurotoxic. Our aim is to stimulate future research examining the molecular and cellular determinants responsible for this unique functional switch, which could be important for several neuropathologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2015


  • Brain disease
  • Fractalkine
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia
  • Neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Medicine(all)


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