Sphingolipids are a class of biologically active lipids that have a role in multiple biological processes including inflammation. Sphingolipids exert their functions by direct signaling or through signaling by their specific receptors. Phosphorylated FTY720 (FTY720P) is a sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) analogue that is currently in trial for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), which targets all S1P receptors but S1P(2). To date, however, it remains unknown whether FTY720P may exert direct anti-inflammatory effects within the central nervous system (CNS), because data concerning S1P receptor expression and regulation under pathological conditions in the human brain are lacking. To investigate potential regulation of S1P receptors in the human brain during MS, we performed immunohistochemical analysis of S1P receptor 1 and 3 expression in well-characterized MS lesions. A strong increase in S1P receptor 1 and 3 expression on reactive astrocytes was detected in active and chronic inactive MS lesions. In addition, we treated primary cultures of human astrocytes with the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha to identify the regulation of S1P(1/3) on astrocytes under pathological conditions. Importantly, we demonstrate that FTY720P exerts an anti-inflammatory action on human astrocytes by limiting secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. Our data demonstrate that reactive astrocytes in MS lesions and cultured under proinflammatory conditions strongly enhance expression of S1P receptors 1 and 3. Results from this study indicate that astrocytes may act as a yet-unknown target within the CNS for the anti-inflammatory effects observed after FTY720P administration in the treatment of MS.