The translocator protein (TSPO, 18 kDa), mainly localized in the outer mitochondrial membrane of steroidogenic tissues, is involved in several cellular functions. TSPO level alterations have been reported in a number of human disorders, particularly in cancer, psychiatric and neurological diseases. In the central nervous system (CNS), TSPO is usually expressed in glial cells, but also in some neuronal cell types. Interestingly, the expression of TSPO on glial cells rises after brain injury and increased TSPO expression is often observed in neurological disorders, gliomas, encephalitis and traumatic injury. Since TSPO is up-regulated in brain diseases, several structurally different classes of ligands targeting TSPO have been described as potential diagnostic or therapeutic agents. Recent researches have reported that TSPO ligands might be valuable in the treatment of brain diseases. This review focuses on currently available TSPO ligands, as useful tools for the treatment of neurodegeneration, neuro-inflammation and neurotrauma.

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