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1.  The opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone, protects spinal motor neurons in a murine model of alphavirus encephalomyelitis 
Experimental neurology  2007;205(2):461-470.
Spread of neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV) to motor neurons (MN) of the spinal cord (SC) causes severe hind limb weakness in C57BL/6 mice and models the paralysis that can accompany alphavirus and flavivirus encephalomyelitis in humans. The fate of spinal MN dictates the severity of NSV-induced paralysis, and recent data suggest that MN damage can occur indirectly via the actions of activated microglial cells. Because the opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone (NAL), blocks microglial-mediated neurodegeneration in other models, we examined its effects during NSV infection. Drug treatment prevented paralysis and enhanced the survival of MN without altering NSV tropism, replication, or clearance from SC tissue. Further studies showed that NAL most effectively inhibited paralysis in a 72-hour window after NSV challenge, suggesting that the drug inhibits an early event in SC pathogenesis. Histochemical studies demonstrated that NAL blocked early microglial activation in SC tissue sections, and protein assays showed that the early induction of pathogenic IL-1β was blunted in SC homogenates. Finally, loss of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) expression in SC, an astrocyte glutamate reuptake protein responsible for lowering toxic extracellular levels of glutamate and preventing MN damage, was reversed by NAL treatment. This GLT-1 loss proved to be highly IL-1β-dependent. Taken together, these data suggest that NAL is neuroprotective in the SC by inhibiting microglial activation that, in turn, maintains normal astrocyte glutamate homeostasis. We propose that drugs targeting such microglial responses may have therapeutic benefit in humans with related viral infections.
PMCID: PMC1939803  PMID: 17459376
Neuroprotection; viral encephalitis; motor neurons; microglial activation; IL-1β; Glutamate transporter-1
2.  Inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis increases mortality in Sindbis virus encephalitis. 
Journal of Virology  1996;70(6):3972-3977.
Sindbis virus (SV) is an alphavirus that causes acute encephalomyelitis in mice. The outcome is determined by the strain of virus and by the age and genetic background of the host. The mortality rates after infection with NSV, a neurovirulent strain of SV, were as follows v: 81% (17 of 21) in BALB/cJ mice; 20% (4 of 20) in BALB/cByJ mice (P < 0.001); 100% in A/J, C57BL/6J, SJL, and DBA mice; and 79% (11 of 14) in immunodeficient scid/CB17 mice. Treatment with Nomega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), a nitric oxide synthetase (NOS) inhibitor, increased mortality to 100% (P < 0.05) in NSV-infected BALB/cJ mice, to 95% (P < 0.001) in BALB/cByJ mice, and to 100% in scid/CB17 mice. BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ mice had similar levels of inducible NOS mRNA in their brains, which were not affected by L-NAME or NSV infection. Brain NOS activity was similar in BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ mice before and after infection and was markedly inhibited by L-NAME. NSV replication in the brains of BALB/cJ mice, BALB/cByJ mice, and mice treated with L-NAME was similar. Treatment of N18 neuroblastoma cells with NO donors S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine or sodium nitroprusside in vitro before infection increased cell viability at 42 to 48 h compared with untreated NSV-infected N18 cells with little effect on virus replication. These data suggest that NO protects mice from fatal encephalitis by a mechanism that does not directly involve the immune response or inhibition of virus growth but rather may enhance survival of the infected neuron until the immune response can control virus replication.
PMCID: PMC190275  PMID: 8648734
3.  Type-I Interferons Suppress Microglial Production of the Lymphoid Chemokine, CXCL13 
Glia  2014;62(9):1452-1462.
Lymphoid chemokines are crucial for the development and maintenance of lymphoid organs, but their ectopic expression in non-lymphoid tissues is implicated in both local response to infection and chronic organ-specific autoimmunity. Production of one such chemokine, C-X-C motif ligand 13 (CXCL13), within the central nervous system (CNS) has been linked to the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS), although little is known about factors controlling its expression in different neural cell types and across a range of disease states. We provoked acute neuroinflammation in experimental animals without causing any associated demyelination using neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV) to better understand the sources and regulators of this chemokine in the CNS. We found that mice genetically deficient in the transcription factor, interferon (IFN) regulatory factor-7 (IRF7), made significantly higher CXCL13 protein levels in the CNS compared with wild-type (WT) controls. Microglia proved to be the main producer of CXCL13 in the brain during infection of both WT and IRF7−/− mice, and primary microglia cultured in vitro generated CXCL13 following stimulation with either virus particles or synthetic Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. Microglia cultured from IRF7−/− mice selectively overproduced CXCL13, and manipulation of extracellular type-I IFN levels demonstrated the existence of a negative feedback loop whereby type-I IFN receptor signaling specifically suppressed microglial CXCL13 release. Since IFN-β is used to treat patients with relapsing-remitting MS and yet acts through unknown mechanisms, we speculate that suppressed lymphoid chemokine production by microglia could contribute to its therapeutic effects.
PMCID: PMC4143141  PMID: 24829092
microglia; CXCL13; type-I interferon; IRF7
4.  Monoclonal antibody cure and prophylaxis of lethal Sindbis virus encephalitis in mice. 
Journal of Virology  1986;58(1):107-115.
Neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV) causes acute encephalitis and paralyzes and kills adult mice unless they are treated with primary immune serum after infection. To study the nature and specificity of curative antibodies, we gave mice 30 different monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against Sindbis virus (SV) 24 h after lethal intracerebral inoculation of NSV. By the time of MAb treatment, NSV replication in the brain had been well established (7.5 X 10(7) PFU/g). Seventeen MAbs directed against multiple biological domains on the NSV E1 and E2 envelope glycoproteins prevented paralysis and death. Anticapsid MAbs failed to protect. Altogether, 15 of 17 curative MAbs either neutralized NSV infectivity or lysed NSV-infected cells with complement, but neither ability was necessary or sufficient to guarantee recovery. All 5 protective anti-E2 MAbs neutralized NSV infectivity; 6 of 10 protective anti-E1 MAbs neutralized NSV; 4 did not. Plaque assay or immunohistochemical staining showed that neutralizing and nonneutralizing curative MAbs decreased NSV in the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. Despite high neutralization titers, hyperimmune anti-SV and anti-NSV mouse sera prevented only 6 and 30% of deaths, respectively, while primary immune sera prevented 50 (SV) and 90% (NSV) of deaths. Secondary intravenous immunization with a live virus apparently diminished, obscured, or failed to boost a class of protective antibodies. When separate mouse groups were given these 30 MAbs 24 h before lethal intracerebral inoculation of NSV, a slightly different set of 17 neutralizing or nonneutralizing anti-E1 and anti-E2 antibodies protected. Two nonneutralizing MAbs and hyperimmune anti-SV serum, which had failed to promote recovery, prophylactically protected 100% of the mice. The antibody requirements or mechanisms of prophylaxis and recovery may differ.
PMCID: PMC252882  PMID: 2419592
5.  Distinct Dictation of Japanese Encephalitis Virus-Induced Neuroinflammation and Lethality via Triggering TLR3 and TLR4 Signal Pathways 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(9):e1004319.
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is major emerging neurologic disease caused by JE virus. To date, the impact of TLR molecules on JE progression has not been addressed. Here, we determined whether each TLR modulates JE, using several TLR-deficient mouse strains (TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, TLR9). Surprisingly, among the tested TLR-deficient mice there were contrasting results in TLR3−/− and TLR4−/− mice, i.e. TLR3−/− mice were highly susceptible to JE, whereas TLR4−/− mice showed enhanced resistance to JE. TLR3 ablation induced severe CNS inflammation characterized by early infiltration of inflammatory CD11b+Ly-6Chigh monocytes along with profoundly increased viral burden, proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine expression as well as BBB permeability. In contrast, TLR4−/− mice showed mild CNS inflammation manifested by reduced viral burden, leukocyte infiltration and proinflammatory cytokine expression. Interestingly, TLR4 ablation provided potent in vivo systemic type I IFN innate response, as well as ex vivo type I IFN production associated with strong induction of antiviral PRRs (RIG-I, MDA5), transcription factors (IRF-3, IRF-7), and IFN-dependent (PKR, Oas1, Mx) and independent ISGs (ISG49, ISG54, ISG56) by alternative activation of IRF3 and NF-κB in myeloid-derived DCs and macrophages, as compared to TLR3−/− myeloid-derived cells which were more permissive to viral replication through impaired type I IFN innate response. TLR4 ablation also appeared to mount an enhanced type I IFN innate and humoral, CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses, which were mediated by altered immune cell populations (increased number of plasmacytoid DCs and NK cells, reduced CD11b+Ly-6Chigh monocytes) and CD4+Foxp3+ Treg number in lymphoid tissue. Thus, potent type I IFN innate and adaptive immune responses in the absence of TLR4 were closely coupled with reduced JE lethality. Collectively, these results suggest that a balanced triggering of TLR signal array by viral components during JE progression could be responsible for determining disease outcome through regulating negative and positive factors.
Author Summary
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is major emerging encephalitis, and more than 60% of global population inhabits JE endemic areas. The etiological virus is currently spreading to previously unaffected regions due to rapid changes in climate and demography. However, the impact of TLR molecules on JE progression has not been addressed to date. We found that the distinct outcomes of JE progression occurred in TLR3 and TLR4-dependent manner, i.e. TLR3−/− mice were highly susceptible, whereas TLR4−/− mice showed enhanced resistance to JE. TLR3 ablation induced severe CNS inflammation manifested by early CD11b+Ly-6Chigh monocyte infiltration, high expression of proinflammatory cytokines, as well as increased BBB permeability. In contrast, TLR4 ablation provided potent type I IFN innate response in infected mice, as well as in myeloid-derived cells closely associated with strong induction of antiviral ISG genes, and also resulted in enhanced humoral, CD4+, and CD8+ T cell responses along with altered plasmacytoid DC and CD4+Foxp3+ Treg number. Thus, potent type I IFN innate and adaptive immune responses in the absence of TLR4 were coupled with reduced JE lethality. Our studies provide an insight into the role of each TLR molecule on the modulation of JE, as well as its mechanism of neuroinflammation control during JE progression.
PMCID: PMC4154777  PMID: 25188232
6.  Herpes simplex virus induces neural oxidative damage via microglial cell Toll-like receptor-2 
Using a murine model of herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 encephalitis, our laboratory has determined that induction of proinflammatory mediators in response to viral infection is largely mediated through a Toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2)-dependent mechanism. Published studies have shown that, like other inflammatory mediators, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated during viral brain infection. It is increasingly clear that ROS are responsible for facilitating secondary tissue damage during central nervous system infection and may contribute to neurotoxicity associated with herpes encephalitis.
Purified microglial cell and mixed neural cell cultures were prepared from C57B/6 and TLR2-/- mice. Intracellular ROS production in cultured murine microglia was measured via 2', 7'-Dichlorofluorescin diacetate (DCFH-DA) oxidation. An assay for 8-isoprostane, a marker of lipid peroxidation, was utilized to measure free radical-associated cellular damage. Mixed neural cultures obtained from β-actin promoter-luciferase transgenic mice were used to detect neurotoxicity induced by HSV-infected microglia.
Stimulation with HSV-1 elevated intracellular ROS in wild-type microglial cell cultures, while TLR2-/- microglia displayed delayed and attenuated ROS production following viral infection. HSV-infected TLR2-/- microglia produced less neuronal oxidative damage to mixed neural cell cultures in comparison to HSV-infected wild-type microglia. Further, HSV-infected TLR2-/- microglia were found to be less cytotoxic to cultured neurons compared to HSV-infected wild-type microglia. These effects were associated with decreased activation of p38 MAPK and p42/p44 ERK in TLR2-/- mice.
These studies demonstrate the importance of microglial cell TLR2 in inducing oxidative stress and neuronal damage in response to viral infection.
PMCID: PMC2904293  PMID: 20584314
7.  Effects of low dose GM-CSF on microglial inflammatory profiles to diverse pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) 
It is well appreciated that obtaining sufficient numbers of primary microglia for in vitro experiments has always been a challenge for scientists studying the biological properties of these cells. Supplementing culture medium with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) partially alleviates this problem by increasing microglial yield. However, GM-CSF has also been reported to transition microglia into a dendritic cell (DC)-like phenotype and consequently, affect their immune properties.
Although the concentration of GM-CSF used in our protocol for mouse microglial expansion (0.5 ng/ml) is at least 10-fold less compared to doses reported to affect microglial maturation and function (≥ 5 ng/ml), in this study we compared the responses of microglia derived from mixed glial cultures propagated in the presence/absence of low dose GM-CSF to establish whether this growth factor significantly altered the immune properties of microglia to diverse bacterial stimuli. These stimuli included the gram-positive pathogen Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and its cell wall product peptidoglycan (PGN), a Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) agonist; the TLR3 ligand polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (polyI:C), a synthetic mimic of viral double-stranded RNA; lipopolysaccharide (LPS) a TLR4 agonist; and the TLR9 ligand CpG oligonucleotide (CpG-ODN), a synthetic form of bacteria/viral DNA.
Interestingly, the relative numbers of microglia recovered from mixed glial cultures following the initial harvest were not influenced by GM-CSF. However, following the second and third collections of the same mixed cultures, the yield of microglia from GM-CSF-supplemented flasks was increased two-fold. Despite the ability of GM-CSF to expand microglial numbers, cells propagated in the presence/absence of GM-CSF demonstrated roughly equivalent responses following S. aureus and PGN stimulation. Specifically, the induction of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2/CXCL2), and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II, CD80, CD86 expression by microglia in response to S. aureus were similar regardless of whether cells had been exposed to GM-CSF during the mixed culture period. In addition, microglial phagocytosis of intact bacteria was unaffected by GM-CSF. In contrast, upon S. aureus stimulation, CD40 expression was induced more prominently in microglia expanded in GM-CSF. Analysis of microglial responses to additional pathogen-associate molecular patterns (PAMPs) revealed that low dose GM-CSF did not significantly alter TNF-α or MIP-2 production in response to the TLR3 and TLR4 agonists polyI:C or LPS, respectively; however, cells expanded in the presence of GM-CSF produced lower levels of both mediators following CpG-ODN stimulation.
We demonstrate that low levels of GM-CSF are sufficient to expand microglial numbers without significantly affecting their immunological responses following activation of TLR2, TLR4 or TLR3 signaling. Therefore, low dose GM-CSF can be considered as a reliable method to achieve higher microglial yields without introducing dramatic activation artifacts.
PMCID: PMC1839084  PMID: 17374157
8.  Role of Specific Innate Immune Responses in Herpes Simplex Virus Infection of the Central Nervous System 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(4):2273-2281.
Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) causes a spectrum of disease, including herpes labialis, herpes keratitis, and herpes encephalitis, which can be lethal. Viral recognition by pattern recognition receptors plays a central role in cytokine production and in the generation of antiviral immunity. The relative contributions of different Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in the innate immune response during central nervous system infection with HSV-1 have not been fully characterized. In this study, we investigate the roles of TLR2, TLR9, UNC93B1, and the type I interferon (IFN) receptor in a murine model of HSV-1 encephalitis. TLR2 is responsible for detrimental inflammatory cytokine production following intracranial infection with HSV-1, and the absence of TLR2 expression leads to increased survival in mice. We prove that inflammatory cytokine production by microglial cells, astrocytes, neutrophils, and monocytes is mediated predominantly by TLR2. We also demonstrate that type I IFNs are absolutely required for survival following intracranial HSV-1 infection, as mice lacking the type I IFN receptor succumb rapidly following infection and have high levels of HSV in the brain. However, the absence of TLR9 does not impact survival, type I IFN levels, or viral replication in the brain following infection. The absence of UNC93B1 leads to a survival disadvantage but does not impact viral replication or type I IFN levels in the brain in HSV-1-infected mice. These results illustrate the complex but important roles that innate immune receptors play in host responses to HSV-1 during infection of the central nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3302371  PMID: 22171256
9.  Neuroprotective Interventions Targeting Detrimental Host Immune Responses Protect Mice From Fatal Alphavirus Encephalitis 
Systemic treatment with the tetracycline derivative, minocycline, attenuates neurological deficits in animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis. Inhibition of microglial activation within the CNS is one mechanism proposed to underlie the drug's beneficial effects in these systems. Given the widening scope of acute viral encephalitis caused by mosquito-borne pathogens, we investigated the therapeutic effects of minocycline in a murine model of fatal alphavirus encephalomyelitis where widespread microglial activation is known to occur. We found that minocycline conferred significant protection against both paralysis and death, even when started after viral challenge and despite having no effect on CNS virus replication or spread. Further studies demonstrated that minocycline inhibited early virus-induced microglial activation, and that diminished CNS production of the inflammatory mediator, interleukin (IL)-1β, contributed to its protective effect. Therapeutic blockade of IL-1 receptors also conferred significant protection in our model, validating the importance of the IL-1 pathway in disease pathogenesis. We propose that interventions targeting detrimental host immune responses arising from activated microglia may be of benefit in humans with acute viral encephalitis caused by related mosquito-borne pathogens. Such treatments could conceivably act through neuroprotective rather than antiviral mechanisms to generate these clinical effects.
PMCID: PMC3143496  PMID: 17549013
viral encephalitis; minocycline; neuroprotection; interleukin-1β; microglia
10.  Tumor necrosis factor-α modulates glutamate transport in the CNS and is a critical determinant of outcome from viral encephalomyelitis 
Brain research  2009;1263:143-154.
Neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV) is a neuronotropic virus that causes a fulminant encephalomyelitis in susceptible mice due to death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. We and others have found that uninfected motor neurons die in response to NSV infection, at least in part due to disrupted astrocytic glutamate transport, resulting in excitotoxic motor neuron death. Here, we examined the mechanisms of astrocyte dysregulation associated with NSV infection. Treatment of organotypic slice cultures with NSV results in viral replication, cell death, altered astrocyte morphology, and the downregulation of the astrocytic glutamate transporter, GLT-1. We have found that TNF-α can mediate GLT-1 downregulation. Furthermore, TNF-α deficient mice infected with NSV exhibit neither GLT-1 downregulation nor neuronal death of brainstem and cervical spinal cord motor neurons and have markedly reduced mortality. These findings have implications for disease intervention and therapeutic development for the prevention of CNS damage associated with inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC2952353  PMID: 19368827
Astrocyte; TNF-α; Motor neuron; GLT-1; Glutamate; Virus
11.  Recognition of Staphylococcus aureus-derived peptidoglycan (PGN) but not intact bacteria is mediated by CD14 in microglia 
Journal of neuroimmunology  2005;170(1-2):93-104.
Recognition of Staphylococcus aureus and its cell-wall component peptidoglycan (PGN) by microglia is mediated, in part, by Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). However, the pattern recognition receptor (PRR) CD14 can also bind PGN and enhance TLR2-mediated signaling in macrophages, suggesting a similar phenomenon might occur in microglia. To assess the functional significance of CD14 on microglial activation, we evaluated the responses of primary microglia isolated from CD14 knockout (KO) and wild type (WT) mice. PGN-dependent microglial activation was partially CD14-dependent as demonstrated by the attenuated expression of TNF-α, macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2/CXCL2), and the soluble PRR pentraxin-3 in CD14 KO microglia compared to WT cells. In contrast, microglial responses to intact S. aureus occurred primarily via a CD14-independent manner. Collectively, these findings reveal the complex nature of gram-positive bacterial recognition by microglia, which occurs, in part, via CD14.
PMCID: PMC2376817  PMID: 16229899
CD14; Microglia; S. aureus; Peptidoglycan; Lipopolysaccharide; Central nervous system; Pentraxin-3
12.  The Role of CD8+ T Cells and Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I Expression in the Central Nervous System of Mice Infected with Neurovirulent Sindbis Virus 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(13):6117-6125.
Little is known about the role of CD8+ T cells infiltrating the neural parenchyma during encephalitis induced by neurovirulent Sindbis virus (NSV). NSV preferentially infects neurons in the mouse brain and spinal cord; however, it is generally accepted that neurons can express few if any major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. We evaluated the possible roles and interactions of CD8+ T cells during NSV encephalitis and demonstrated that MHC class I antigen (H2K/D) was expressed on endothelial cells, inflammatory cells, and ependymal cells after intracerebral inoculation of NSV. No immunoreactivity was observed in neurons. On the other hand, in situ hybridization with probes for MHC class I heavy chain, β2 microglobulin, and TAP1 and TAP2 mRNAs revealed increased expression in a majority of neurons, as well as in inflammatory cells, endothelial cells, and ependymal cells in the central nervous system of infected mice. NSV-infected neurons may fail to express MHC class I molecules due to a posttranscriptional block or may express only nonclassical MHC class I genes. To better understand the role CD8+ T cells play during fatal encephalitis induced by NSV, mice lacking functional CD8+ T cells were studied. The presence or absence of CD8 did not alter outcome, but absence of β2 microglobulin improved survival. Interestingly, the intracellular levels of viral RNA decreased more rapidly in immunocompetent mice than in mice without functional CD8+ T cells. These observations suggest that CD8+ T cells may act indirectly, possibly via cytokines, to contribute to the clearance of viral RNA in neurons.
PMCID: PMC112110  PMID: 10846095
13.  Necrotic neurons enhance microglial neurotoxicity through induction of glutaminase by a MyD88-dependent pathway 
Microglia are macrophage-like cells that constantly sense the microenvironment within the central nervous system (CNS). In the event of neuronal stress or injury, microglial cells rapidly react and change their phenotype. This response may lead to a deleterious type of microglial activation, which is often associated with neuroinflammation and neurotoxicity in several neuropathological conditions. We investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying triggering of microglial activation by necrotic neuronal damage.
Primary cultures of microglia were used to study the effect of necrotic neurons on microglial inflammatory responses and toxicity towards cerebellar granule neurons (CGN). The mouse hippocampal cell line, HT22, was used in this study as the main source of necrotic neurons to stimulate microglia. To identify the signal transduction pathways activated in microglia, primary microglial cultures were obtained from mice deficient in Toll-like receptor (TLR) -2, -4, or in the TLR adapter protein MyD88.
Necrotic neurons, but not other necrotic cell types, induced microglial activation which was characterized by up-regulation of: i) MHC class II; ii) co-stimulatory molecules, i.e. CD40 and CD24; iii) β2 integrin CD11b; iii) pro-inflammatory cytokines, i.e. interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-12p40 and tumor-necrosis factor (TNF); iv) pro-inflammatory enzymes such as nitric oxide synthase (iNOS, type II NOS), indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and increased microglial motility. Moreover, microglia-conditioned medium (MCM) obtained from cultures of activated microglia showed increased neurotoxicity mediated through the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR). The activation of microglia by necrotic neurons was shown to be dependent on the TLR-associated adapter molecule myeloid differentiation primary response gene (MyD88). Furthermore, MyD88 mediated enhanced neurotoxicity by activated microglia through up-regulation of the expression and activity of glutaminase, an enzyme that produces glutamate, which is an NMDAR agonist.
These results show that necrotic neurons activate in microglia a MyD88-dependent pathway responsible for a pro-inflammatory response that also leads to increased neurotoxic activity through induction of glutaminase. This finding contributes to better understanding the mechanisms causing increased neuroinflammation and microglial neurotoxicity in a neurodegenerative environment.
PMCID: PMC2572162  PMID: 18844999
14.  The Adjuvant Activity of Alphavirus Replicons Is Enhanced by Incorporating the Microbial Molecule Flagellin into the Replicon 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65964.
Ligands of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) including Toll-like receptors (TLRs) stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses and are considered as potent adjuvants. Combinations of ligands might act in synergy to induce stronger and broader immune responses compared to stand-alone ligands. Alphaviruses stimulate endosomal TLRs 3, 7 and 8 as well as the cytoplasmic PRR MDA-5, resulting in induction of a strong type I interferon (IFN) response. Bacterial flagellin stimulates TLR5 and when delivered intracellularly the cytosolic PRR NLRC4, leading to secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. Both alphaviruses and flagellin have independently been shown to act as adjuvants for antigen-specific antibody responses. Here, we hypothesized that alphavirus and flagellin would act in synergy when combined. We therefore cloned the Salmonella Typhimurium flagellin (FliC) gene into an alphavirus replicon and assessed its adjuvant activity on the antibody response against co-administered antigen. In mice immunized with recombinant alphavirus, antibody responses were greatly enhanced compared to soluble FliC or control alphavirus. Both IgG1 and IgG2a/c responses were increased, indicating an enhancement of both Th1 and Th2 type responses. The adjuvant activity of FliC-expressing alphavirus was diminished but not abolished in the absence of TLR5 or type I IFN signaling, suggesting the contribution of several signaling pathways and some synergistic and redundant activity of its components. Thus, we have created a recombinant adjuvant that stimulates multiple signaling pathways of innate immunity resulting in a strong and broad antibody response.
PMCID: PMC3681802  PMID: 23785460
15.  Roles of TLR3 and RIG-I in Mediating the Inflammatory Response in Mouse Microglia following Japanese Encephalitis Virus Infection 
Journal of Immunology Research  2014;2014:787023.
Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infection can cause central nervous system disease with irreversible neurological damage in humans and animals. Evidence suggests that overactivation of microglia leads to greatly increased neuronal damage during JEV infection. However, the mechanism by which JEV induces the activation of microglia remains unclear. Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) and retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) can recognize double-stranded RNA, and their downstream signaling results in production of proinflammatory mediators. In this study, we investigated the roles of TLR3 and RIG-I in the inflammatory response caused by JEV infection in the mouse microglial cell line. JEV infection induced the expression of TLR3 and RIG-I and the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK). Knockdown of TLR3 and RIG-I attenuated activation of ERK, p38MAPK, activator protein 1 (AP-1), and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB). Secretion of TNF-α, IL-6, and CCL-2, which was induced by JEV, was reduced by TLR3 and RIG-I knockdown and inhibitors of phosphorylated ERK and p38MAPK. Furthermore, viral proliferation was increased following knockdown of TLR3 and RIG-I. Our findings suggest that the signaling pathways of TLR3 and RIG-I play important roles in the JEV-induced inflammatory response of microglia.
PMCID: PMC4101954  PMID: 25101306
16.  Myd88-Dependent Toll-Like Receptor 7 Signaling Mediates Protection from Severe Ross River Virus-Induced Disease in Mice 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(19):10675-10685.
Arthralgia-associated alphaviruses, including chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and Ross River virus (RRV), pose significant public health threats because of their ability to cause explosive outbreaks of debilitating arthralgia and myalgia in human populations. Although the host inflammatory response is known to contribute to the pathogenesis of alphavirus-induced arthritis and myositis, the role that Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are major regulators of host antiviral and inflammatory responses, play in the pathogenesis of alphavirus-induced arthritis and myositis has not been extensively studied. Using a mouse model of RRV-induced myositis/arthritis, we found that myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (Myd88)-dependent TLR7 signaling is involved in protection from severe RRV-associated disease. Infections of Myd88- and TLR7-deficient mouse strains with RRV revealed that both Myd88 and TLR7 significantly contributed to protection from RRV-induced mortality, and both mouse strains exhibited more severe tissue damage than wild-type (WT) mice following RRV infection. While viral loads were unchanged in either Myd88 or TLR7 knockout mice compared to WT mice at early times postinfection, both Myd88 and TLR7 knockout mice exhibited higher viral loads than WT mice at late times postinfection. Furthermore, while high levels of RRV-specific antibody were produced in TLR7-deficient mice, this antibody had very little neutralizing activity and had lower affinity than WT antibody. Additionally, TLR7- and Myd88-deficient mice showed defects in germinal center activity, suggesting that TLR7-dependent signaling is critical for the development of protective antibody responses against RRV.
PMCID: PMC3457316  PMID: 22837203
17.  Viral determinants of age-dependent virulence of Sindbis virus for mice. 
Journal of Virology  1993;67(8):4605-4610.
Many alphaviruses cause more severe disease in young animals than in older animals. The age-dependent resistance to severe disease is determined primarily by maturation of the host, but strains of virus can be selected that overcome the increased resistance of mature animals. Sindbis virus (SV) strain AR339 causes fatal encephalitis in newborn mice and nonfatal encephalitis in weanling mice, whereas NSV, a neuroadapted strain of SV, causes fatal encephalitis in weanling as well as newborn mice. We have previously shown that the E2 glycoprotein of NSV contained His-55, whereas AR339 E2 had Gln-55 (S. Lustig, A. C. Jackson, C. S. Hahn, D. E. Griffin, E. G. Strauss, and J. H. Strauss, J. Virol. 62:2329-2336, 1988) and that SV with E2 containing Gly-172 was more virulent for newborn mice than SV with E2 containing Arg-172 (P. C. Tucker and D. E. Griffin, J. Virol. 65:1551-1557, 1991). Here we tested the virulence for both newborn and older mice of SV containing a number of different amino acids at E2 position 55 (His, Gln, Lys, Arg, Glu, Gly) in combination with both Gly-172 and Arg-172. All the viruses were virulent for newborn mice, but the residues at both 55 and 172 influenced the virulence of the virus, and there were differences in virulence observed among the various viruses. However, only viruses with His-55 were fully virulent for 14-day-old mice, and this virulence was independent of the residue at position 172. Virus with Lys-55 was virulent for 7-day-old mice, although slightly attenuated relative to His-55. Viruses with His-55 grew more rapidly and to higher titer in the brains of 7- and 14-day-old mice, in N18 neuroblastoma cells, and in BHK cells. Our data suggest that His-55 is important for neurovirulence in older mice and acts by increasing the efficiency of virus replication.
PMCID: PMC237845  PMID: 8392602
18.  Toll-Like Receptor Prestimulation Increases Phagocytosis of Escherichia coli DH5α and Escherichia coli K1 Strains by Murine Microglial Cells ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(1):557-564.
Meningitis and meningoencephalitis caused by Escherichia coli are associated with high rates of mortality. When an infection occurs, Toll-like receptors (TLRs) expressed by microglial cells can recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns and activate multiple steps in the inflammatory response that coordinate the brain's local defense, such as phagocytosis of invading pathogens. An upregulation of the phagocytic ability of reactive microglia could improve the host defense in immunocompromised patients against pathogens such as E. coli. Here, murine microglial cultures were stimulated with the TLR agonists Pam3CSK4 (TLR1/TLR2), lipopolysaccharide (TLR4), and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (TLR9) for 24 h. Upon stimulation, levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha and the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL1 were increased, indicating microglial activation. Phagocytic activity was studied after adding either E. coli DH5α or E. coli K1 strains. After 60 and 90 min of bacterial exposure, the number of ingested bacteria was significantly higher in cells prestimulated with TLR agonists than in unstimulated controls (P < 0.01). Addition of cytochalasin D, an inhibitor of actin polymerization, blocked >90% of phagocytosis. We also analyzed the ability of microglia to kill the ingested E. coli strains. Intracellularly surviving bacteria were quantified at different time points (90, 150, 240, and 360 min) after 90 min of phagocytosis. The number of bacteria killed intracellularly after 6 h was higher in cells primed with the different TLR agonists than in unstimulated microglia. Our data suggest that microglial stimulation by the TLR system can increase bacterial phagocytosis and killing. This approach could improve central nervous system resistance to infections in immunocompromised patients.
PMCID: PMC2612236  PMID: 18981243
19.  Differences between C57BL/6 and BALB/cBy Mice in Mortality and Virus Replication after Intranasal Infection with Neuroadapted Sindbis Virus 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(13):6156-6161.
Neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV), given intranasally, caused fatal encephalitis in 100% of adult C57BL/6 mice and 0% of BALB/cBy mice. Most C57BL/6 mice developed severe kyphoscoliosis followed by hind-limb paralysis, while BALB/cBy mice did not. In situ hybridization for detecting NSV RNA and immunohistochemistry for detecting NSV antigen indicated that virus delivered by this route infected neurons of the olfactory region and spread caudally without infection of ependymal cells. Virus antigen was more abundant and infectious virus increased more rapidly and reached higher levels in C57BL/6 mice than in BALB/cBy mice. Surprisingly, infectious virus was cleared faster in C57BL/6 mice, and this was associated with more rapid production of neutralizing antibody. However, viral RNA was cleared more slowly in C57BL/6 mice. In both mouse strains, more infectious virus was present in the lumbar spinal cord than in the cervical spinal cord. These data suggest that genetic susceptibility to fatal NSV encephalomyelitis is determined at least in part by the efficiency of viral replication and spread in the central nervous system. The differences identified in this study provide possible phenotypes for mapping genetic loci involved in susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC112114  PMID: 10846099
20.  Microglial activation mediates host neuronal survival induced by neural stem cells 
The rational of neural stem cells (NSCs) in the therapy of neurological disease is either to replace dead neurons or to improve host neuronal survival, the latter of which has got less attention and the underlying mechanism is as yet little known. Using a transwell co-culture system, we reported that, in organotypic brain slice cultures, NSCs significantly improved host neuronal viability. Interestingly, this beneficial effect of NSCs was abrogated by a microglial inhibitor minocycline, while it was mimicked by a microglial agonist, Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) ligand CpG-ODN, which supports the pro-vital mediation by microglia on this NSCs-improved neuronal survival. Moreover, we showed that NSCs significantly induced host microglial movement and higher expression of a microglial marker IBA-1, the latter of which was positively correlated with TLR9 or extracellular-regulated protein kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) activation. Real-time PCR revealed that NSCs inhibited the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules, but significantly increased the expression of molecules associated with a neuroprotective phenotype such as CX3CR1, triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2) and insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Similarly, in the microglia cells, NSCs induced the same microglial response as that in the slices. Further treatment with TLR9 ligand CpG-ODN, TLR9 inhibitor chloroquine (CQ) or ERK1/2 inhibitor U0126 demonstrated that TLR9-ERK1/2 pathway was involved in the NSCs-induced microglial activation. Collectively, this study indicated that NSCs improve host neuronal survival by switching microglia from a detrimental to a neuroprotective phenotype in adult mouse brain, and the microglial TLR9-ERK1/2 pathway seems to participate in this NSCs-mediated rescue action.
PMCID: PMC4124015  PMID: 24725889
neural stem cells; microglia; neuronal survival; Toll-like receptor; ERK1/2
21.  Toll-Like Receptor 2 Impairs Host Defense in Gram-Negative Sepsis Caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei (Melioidosis) 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(7):e248.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are essential in host defense against pathogens by virtue of their capacity to detect microbes and initiate the immune response. TLR2 is seen as the most important receptor for gram-positive bacteria, while TLR4 is regarded as the gram-negative TLR. Melioidosis is a severe infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, that is endemic in Southeast Asia. We aimed to characterize the expression and function of TLRs in septic melioidosis.
Methods and Findings
Patient studies: 34 patients with melioidosis demonstrated increased expression of CD14, TLR1, TLR2, and TLR4 on the cell surfaces of monocytes and granulocytes, and increased CD14, TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, LY96 (also known as MD-2), TLR5, and TLR10 mRNA levels in purified monocytes and granulocytes when compared with healthy controls. In vitro experiments: Whole-blood and alveolar macrophages obtained from TLR2 and TLR4 knockout (KO) mice were less responsive to B. pseudomallei in vitro, whereas in the reverse experiment, transfection of HEK293 cells with either TLR2 or TLR4 rendered these cells responsive to this bacterium. In addition, the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of B. pseudomallei signals through TLR2 and not through TLR4. Mouse studies: Surprisingly, TLR4 KO mice were indistinguishable from wild-type mice with respect to bacterial outgrowth and survival in experimentally induced melioidosis. In contrast, TLR2 KO mice displayed a markedly improved host defenses as reflected by a strong survival advantage together with decreased bacterial loads, reduced lung inflammation, and less distant-organ injury.
Patients with melioidosis displayed an up-regulation of multiple TLRs in peripheral blood monocytes and granulocytes. Although both TLR2 and TLR4 contribute to cellular responsiveness to B. pseudomallei in vitro, TLR2 detects the LPS of B. pseudomallei, and only TLR2 impacts on the immune response of the intact host in vivo. Inhibition of TLR2 may be a novel treatment strategy in melioidosis.
Willem Wiersinga and colleagues find up-regulation of multiple Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in peripheral blood cells of patients with melioidosis. However, only TLR2 had an effect on the immune response in a mouse model.
Editors' Summary
Melioidosis is a severe tropical infection caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. This soil-dwelling pathogen (disease-causing organism) enters the body through cuts, by swallowed contaminated water, or by inhaled contaminated dust. Here, it can cause a severe lung infection or spread into the blood stream and around the body, where it causes widespread inflammation (sepsis) and organ failure. Untreated septic melioidosis is usually fatal. Even with antibiotic therapy, half the people who develop it in Thailand (a hot spot for melioidosis) die. B. pseudomallei is a “gram-negative” bacterium. That is, it is surrounded by a membrane that stops it taking up a stain used to detect bacteria. This membrane contains a molecule called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Proteins on immune system cells called Toll-like receptors (TLRs), of which there are many, recognize LPS and other surface molecules common to different pathogens and tell the cells to make cytokines. These cytokines stimulate the immune system to kill the pathogen but also cause inflammation, the underlying problem in septic melioidosis and other forms of sepsis. In other words, TLRs are two-edged swords—they provide an essential first-line defense against pathogens, but cause life-threatening inflammation if overstimulated.
Why Was This Study Done?
It isn't known which TLRs are involved in melioidosis. TLR4 normally detects LPS, but the surface of B. pseudomallei also carries molecules that interact with TLR2. Understanding how B. pseudomallei interacts with TLRs might suggest new, more effective ways to treat septic melioidosis. Better remedies for this disease are badly needed because, as well as the infections it causes in the community, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified B. pseudomallei as a potential bioterrorism agent. In this study, the researchers have characterized the expression and function of TLRs in septic melioidosis using human, in vitro (test tube), and animal approaches.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers isolated monocytes and granulocytes (immune system cells involved in first-line defenses against pathogens) from patients with melioidosis and from healthy people. The patients' cells made more TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, and CD14 (a protein that enhances the activation of immune system cells by LPS) than those of the healthy controls and more of the mRNAs encoding several other TLRs. Next, the researchers tested the ability of heat-killed B. pseudomallei to induce the release of TNFα (a cytokine produced in response to TLR signaling) from macrophages (immune system cells that swallow up pathogens) isolated from wild-type mice and from mice lacking TLR2 or TLR4. Macrophages isolated from wild-type mice made more TNFα than those from TLR2- or TLR4-deficient mice. In addition, a human kidney cell line engineered to express CD14/TLR2 or CD14/TLR4 but not the parent cell line released IL8 (another cytokine) when stimulated with heat-killed B. pseudomallei. Other experiments in these human cell lines showed that LPS purified from B. pseudomallei signals through TLR2 but not through TLR4. Finally, the researchers tested the ability of TLR2- and TLR4-deficient mice to survive after infection with live B. pseudomallei. Compared with TLR4-deficient or wild-type mice, the TLR2-deficient mice had a strong survival advantage, a lower bacterial load, reduced lung inflammation, and less organ damage.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that people with melioidosis have increased expression of several TLRs, any one of which might cause the sepsis associated with B. pseudomallei infection. The in vitro findings indicate that TLR2 and TLR4 both contribute to the responsiveness of immune cells to B. pseudomallei in test tubes, but that only TLR2 detects the LPS of this bacterium. This unexpected result—TLR4 normally responds to LPS—might indicate that there is something unique about the LPS of B. pseudomallei. Finally, the survival of TLR2-deficient mice after infection with B. pseudomallei suggests that TLR2-mediated dysregulation of the immune system in response to invasive B. pseudomallei might cause septic melioidosis. Although these results need confirming in people, they suggest that inhibition of TLR2 in combination with antibiotic therapy might improve outcomes for people with melioidosis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on melioidosis (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information for the public and health professionals on melioidosis
Wikipedia has pages on melioidosis and on Toll-like receptors (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on sepsis (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC1950213  PMID: 17676990
22.  Induction of Apoptosis by Sindbis Virus Occurs at Cell Entry and Does Not Require Virus Replication 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(12):10296-10302.
Sindbis virus (SV) is an alphavirus that causes encephalitis in mice and can lead to the apoptotic death of infected cells. To determine the step in virus replication during which apoptosis is triggered, we used UV-inactivated SV, chemicals that block virus fusion or protein synthesis, and cells that do and do not express heparan sulfate, the initial binding molecule for SV infection of many cells. In initial experiments, UV-inactivated neuroadapted SV (NSV) induced apoptosis in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells lacking heparan sulfate in the presence of cycloheximide. When fusion of prebound UV-inactivated NSV was rapidly induced at the plasma membrane by exposure to acidic pH, apoptosis was induced in CHO cells with or without heparan sulfate in the presence or absence of cycloheximide in a virus dose-dependent manner. In N18 neuroblastoma cells, the relative virulence of the virus strain was an important determinant of apoptosis induced by UV-inactivated SV. Treatment of N18 cells with monensin to prevent endosomal acidification an hour before, but not 2 h after, exposure to live NSV blocked the induction of cell death, as did treatment with NH4Cl or bafilomycin A1. These studies indicate that SV can induce apoptosis at the time of fusion with the cell membrane and that virus replication is not required.
PMCID: PMC113084  PMID: 10559347
23.  Loss of Interleukin Receptor Associated Kinase 4 Signaling Suppresses Amyloid Pathology and Alters Microglial Phenotype in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) typified the deposition of amyloid in the brain which elicits a robust microglial-mediated inflammatory response that is associated with disease exacerbation and accelerated progression. Microglia are the principal immune effector cells in the brain and interact with fibrillar forms of Aβ (fAβ) through a receptor complex that includes Toll-Like Receptors (TLR) 2/4/6 and their coreceptors. Interleukin receptor-associated kinases (IRAKs) are essential intracellular signaling molecules for transduction of TLR signals. Studies of mouse models of AD in which the individual TLRs are knocked out have produced conflicting results on roles of TLR signaling in amyloid homeostasis. Therefore, we disrupted a common downstream TLR signaling element, IRAK4. We report that microglial IRAK4 is necessary in vitro for fAβ to activate the canonical proinflammatory signaling pathways leading to activation of p38, JNK, and ERK MAP kinases and to generate reactive oxygen species. In vivo the loss of IRAK4 function results in decreased Aβ levels in a murine model of AD. This was associated with diminished microgliosis and astrogliosis in aged mice. Analysis of microglia isolated from the adult mouse brain revealed an altered pattern of gene expression associated with changes in microglial phenotype that were associated with expression of IRF transcription factors that govern microglial phenotype. Further, loss of IRAK4 function also promoted amyloid clearance mechanisms, including elevated expression of insulin degrading enzyme. Finally, blocking IRAK function restored olfactory behavior. These data demonstrate that IRAK4 activation acts normally to regulate microglial activation status and influence amyloid homeostasis in the brain.
PMCID: PMC3505880  PMID: 23100432
24.  Immunization with nonstructural proteins promotes functional recovery of alphavirus-infected neurons. 
Journal of Virology  1997;71(5):3415-3419.
The encephalitic alphaviruses are useful models for understanding virus-neuron interactions. A neurovirulent strain of Sindbis virus (NSV) causes fatal paralysis in mice by infecting motor neurons and inducing apoptosis of these nonrenewable cells. Antibodies to the surface glycoproteins suppress virus replication, but other recovery-promoting components of the immune response have not been recognized. We assessed the effect on the outcome of NSV-induced encephalomyelitis of immunization of mice with nonstructural proteins (nsPs) by using recombinant vaccinia viruses. Mice immunized with vaccinia virus expressing nsPs and challenged with NSV initially developed paralysis similar to unimmunized mice but then recovered neurologic function. Mice preimmunized with vaccinia virus expressing structural proteins were completely protected from paralysis. Mice immunized with vaccinia virus alone showed paralysis with little evidence of recovery. Vaccinia virus expressing only nsP2 was as effective as vaccinia virus expressing all the nsPs. Protection provided by immunity to nsPs was not associated with a reduction in virus replication or with improved antibody responses to structural proteins. Protection could not be passively transferred with nsP immune serum. The depletion of T cells at the time of NSV infection decreased protection. The data show that antiviral immune responses can improve the ability of neurons to survive infection and to recover function without altering virus replication.
PMCID: PMC191486  PMID: 9094611
25.  BCL-2 and BAX Protect Adult Mice from Lethal Sindbis Virus Infection but Do Not Protect Spinal Cord Motor Neurons or Prevent Paralysis 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(20):10393-10400.
Cellular proteins that regulate apoptotic cell death can modulate the outcome of Sindbis virus (SV) encephalitis in mice. Both endogenous and overexpressed BCL-2 and BAX proteins protect newborn mice from fatal SV infection by blocking apoptosis in infected neurons. To determine the effects of these cellular factors on the course of infection in older animals, a more neurovirulent SV vector (dsNSV) was constructed from a viral strain that causes both prominent spinal cord infection with hind-limb paralysis and death in weanling mice. This vector has allowed assessment of the effects of BCL-2 and BAX on both mortality and paralysis in these hosts. Similar to newborn hosts, weanling mice infected with dsNSV encoding BCL-2 or BAX survived better than animals infected with control viruses. This finding indicates that BCL-2 and BAX both protect neurons that mediate host survival. Neither cellular factor, however, could suppress the development of hind-limb paralysis or prevent the degeneration of motor neurons in the lumbar spinal cord. Infection of BAX knockout mice with dsNSV demonstrated that endogenous BAX also enhances the survival of animals but has no effect on paralysis. These findings for the spinal cord are consistent with earlier data showing that dying lumbar motor neurons do not exhibit an apoptotic morphology. Thus, divergent cell death pathways are activated in different target populations of neurons during neurovirulent SV infection of weanling mice.
PMCID: PMC136557  PMID: 12239316

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