The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 62: 403 - 417 (2018)

Vol 62, Issue 6-7-8

Special Issue: Regeneration

Role of the immune response in initiating central nervous system regeneration in vertebrates: learning from the fish

Review | Published: 21 June 2018

Viktoria Bosak, Kei Murata, Oliver Bludau and Michael Brand*

Center for Molecular and Cellular Bioengeneering (CMCB), DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden, Germany


The mammalian central nervous system is not able to regenerate neurons lost upon injury. In contrast, anamniote vertebrates show a remarkable regenerative capacity and are able to replace damaged cells and restore function. Recent studies have shown that in naturally regenerating vertebrates, such as zebrafish, inflammation is a key processes required for the initiation of regeneration. These findings are in contrast to many studies in mammals, where the central nervous system has long been viewed as an immune-privileged organ with inflammation considered one of the key negative factors causing lack of neuronal regeneration. In this review, we discuss similarities and differences between naturally regenerating vertebrates, and those with very limited to non-existing regenerative capacity. We will introduce neural stem and progenitor cells in different species and explain how they differ in their reaction to acute injury of the central nervous system. Next, we illustrate how different organisms respond to injuries by activation of their immune system. Important immune cell types will be discussed in relation to their effects on neural stem cell behavior. Finally, we will give an overview on key inflammatory mediators secreted upon injury that have been linked to activation of neural stem cells and regeneration. Overall, understanding how species with regenerative potential couple inflammation and successful regeneration will help to identify potential targets to stimulate proliferation of neural stem cells and subsequent neurogenesis in mammals and may provide targets for therapeutic intervention strategies for neurodegenerative diseases.


neuro-inflammation, injury, lipid mediator, cytokine, immune cell

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