Caruso G, Di Pietro L, Caraci F., Biomolecules. 2023 Mar 9;13(3):505.

Pubmed:; doi:


Microglia represent the immune system of the brain. Their role is central in two phenomena, neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, which are at the roots of different pathologies related to the central nervous system (CNS). In order to maintain the homeostasis of the brain and re-establish the equilibrium after a threatening imbalance, microglia communicate with each other and other cells within the CNS by receiving specific signals through membrane-bound receptors and then releasing neurotrophic factors into either the extracellular milieu or directly into the cytoplasm of nearby cells, such as astrocytes and neurons. These last two mechanisms rely on the activity of protein structures that enable the formation of channels in the membrane, namely, connexins and pannexins, that group and form gap junctions, hemichannels, and pannexons. These channels allow the release of gliotransmitters, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glutamate, together with calcium ion (Ca2+), that seem to play a pivotal role in inter-cellular communication. The aim of the present review is focused on the physiology of channel protein complexes and their contribution to neuroinflammatory and oxidative stress-related phenomena, which play a central role in neurodegenerative disorders. We will then discuss how pharmacological modulation of these channels can impact neuroinflammatory phenomena and hypothesize that currently available nutraceuticals, such as carnosine and N-acetylcysteine, can modulate the activity of connexins and pannexins in microglial cells and reduce oxidative stress in neurodegenerative disorders.