Tenascins and inflammation in disorders of the nervous system
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In vitro and in vivo studies on the role of tenascins have shown that the two paradigmatic glycoproteins of the tenascin family, tenascin-C (TnC) and tenascin-R (TnR) play important roles in cell proliferation and migration, fate determination, axonal pathfinding, myelination, and synaptic plasticity. As components of the extracellular matrix, both molecules show distinct, but also overlapping dual functions in inhibiting and promoting cell interactions depending on the cell type, developmental stage and molecular microenvironment. They are expressed by neurons and glia as well as, for TnC, by cells of the immune system. The functional relationship between neural and immune cells becomes relevant in acute and chronic nervous system disorders, in particular when the blood brain and blood peripheral nerve barriers are compromised. In this review, we will describe the functional parameters of the two molecules in cell interactions during development and, in the adult, in synaptic activity and plasticity, as well as regeneration after injury, with TnC being conducive for regeneration and TnR being inhibitory for functional recovery. Although not much is known about the role of tenascins in neuroinflammation, we will describe emerging knowledge on the interplay between neural and immune cells in autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and polyneuropathies. We will attempt to point out the directions of experimental approaches that we envisage would help gaining insights into the complex interplay of TnC and TnR with the cells that express them in pathological conditions of nervous and immune systems.