Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Friend or Foe?

Giulia Guidotti, Chiara Scarlata, Liliana Brambilla, Daniela Rossi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by a massive neuroinflammatory reaction, which plays a key role in the progression of the disease. One of the major mediators of the inflammatory response is the pleiotropic cytokine tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), mainly released within the central nervous system (CNS) by reactive astrocytes and microglia. Increased levels of TNFα and its receptors (TNFR1 and TNFR2) have been described in plasma, serum, cerebrospinal fluid and CNS tissue from both ALS patients and transgenic animal models of disease. However, the precise role exerted by TNFα in the context of ALS is still highly controversial, since both protective and detrimental functions have been reported. These opposing actions depend on multiple factors, among which includes the type of TNFα receptor activated. In fact, TNFR2 seems to mediate a harmful role being involved in motor neuron cell death, whereas TNFR1 signaling mediates neuroprotective effects, promoting the expression and secretion of trophic factors. This suggests that a better understanding of the cytokine impact on ALS progression may enable the development of effective therapies aimed at strengthening the protective roles of TNFα and at suppressing the detrimental ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2021


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