Imaging neuroinflammation with TSPO: A new perspective on the cellular sources and subcellular localization Article

Guilarte, TR, Rodichkin, AN, McGlothan, JL et al. (2022). Imaging neuroinflammation with TSPO: A new perspective on the cellular sources and subcellular localization . PHARMACOLOGY & THERAPEUTICS, 234 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2021.108048

cited authors

  • Guilarte, TR; Rodichkin, AN; McGlothan, JL; Acanda De La Rocha, AM; Azzam, DJ


  • Translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO), previously named Peripheral Benzodiazepine Receptor, is a well-validated and widely used biomarker of neuroinflammation to assess diverse central nervous system (CNS) pathologies in preclinical and clinical studies. Many studies have shown that in animal models of human neurological and neurodegenerative disease and in the human condition, TSPO levels increase in the brain neuropil, and this increase is driven by infiltration of peripheral inflammatory cells and activation of glial cells. Therefore, a clear understanding of the dynamics of the cellular sources of the TSPO response is critically important in the interpretation of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) studies and for understanding the pathophysiology of CNS diseases. Within the normal brain compartment, there are tissues and cells such as the choroid plexus, ependymal cells of the lining of the ventricles, and vascular endothelial cells that also express TSPO at even higher levels than in glial cells. However, there is a paucity of knowledge if these cell types respond and increase TSPO in the diseased brain. These cells do provide a background signal that needs to be accounted for in TSPO-PET imaging studies. More recently, there are reports that TSPO may be expressed in neurons of the adult brain and TSPO expression may be increased by neuronal activity. Therefore, it is essential to study this topic with a great deal of detail, methodological rigor, and rule out alternative interpretations and imaging artifacts. High levels of TSPO are present in the outer mitochondrial membrane. Recent studies have provided evidence of its localization in other cellular compartments including the plasma membrane and perinuclear regions which may define functions that are different from that in mitochondria. A greater understanding of the TSPO subcellular localization in glial cells and infiltrating peripheral immune cells and associated function(s) may provide an additional layer of information to the understanding of TSPO neurobiology. This review is an effort to outline recent advances in understanding the cellular sources and subcellular localization of TSPO in brain cells and to examine remaining questions that require rigorous investigation.

publication date

  • June 1, 2022

published in

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


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