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Key Event Title
|Level of Biological Organization|
Key Event Components
|brain inflammation||microglial cell||pathological|
Key Event Overview
AOPs Including This Key Event
|AOP Name||Role of event in AOP||Point of Contact||Author Status||OECD Status|
|Binding of antagonist to NMDARs can lead to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration||KeyEvent||Florianne Tschudi-Monnet (send email)||Open for citation & comment||WPHA/WNT Endorsed|
|ionotropic glutamatergic receptors and cognition||KeyEvent||Anna Price (send email)||Open for citation & comment||WPHA/WNT Endorsed|
|Mitochondrial dysfunction and Neurotoxicity||KeyEvent||Andrea Terron (send email)||Open for citation & comment||WPHA/WNT Endorsed|
|Oxidative stress and Developmental impairment in learning and memory||KeyEvent||Marie-Gabrielle Zurich (send email)||Open for citation & comment||WPHA/WNT Endorsed|
|Sars-CoV-2 causes encephalitis||KeyEvent||Anna Price (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite||Under Development|
|tau-AOP||KeyEvent||Erwin L Roggen (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite|
|Calcium overload driven development of parkinsonian motor deficits||KeyEvent||Julia Meerman (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite|
|Increased glutamate to economic burden||KeyEvent||Karine Audouze (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite|
|During brain development, adulthood and aging||High|
Key Event Description
Neuroinflammation or brain inflammation differs from peripheral inflammation in that the vascular response and the role of peripheral bone marrow-derived cells are less conspicuous. The most easily detectable feature of neuroinflammation is activation of microglial cells and astrocytes. It is evidenced by changes in shape, increased expression of certain antigens, and accumulation and proliferation of the glial cells in affected regions (Aschner, 1998; Graeber & Streit, 1990; Monnet-Tschudi et al, 2007; Streit et al, 1999; Kraft and Harry, 2011; Claycomb et al., 2013). Upon stimulation by cytokines or inflammogens (e.g. from pathogens or from damaged neurons), both glial cell types activate inflammatory signalling pathways, which result in increased expression and/or release of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines, eicosanoids, and metalloproteinases (Dong & Benveniste, 2001), as well as in the production of reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen species (RNS) (Brown & Bal-Price, 2003). Different types of activation states are possible for microglia and astrocytes, resulting in pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory signalling and other cellular functions (such as phagocytosis) (Streit et al., 1999; Nakajima and Kohsaka, 2004).
Therefore, neuroinflammation can have both neuroprotective/neuroreparative and neurodegenerative consequences (Carson et al., 2006 ; Monnet-Tschudi et al, 2007; Aguzzi et al., 2013 ; Glass et al., 2010). Under normal physiological conditions, microglial cells scan the nervous system for neuronal integrity (Nimmerjahn et al, 2005) and for invading pathogens (Aloisi, 2001; Kreutzberg, 1995; Kreutzberg, 1996; Rivest, 2009). They are the first type of cell activated (first line of defence), and can subsequently induce astrocyte activation (Falsig, 2008). Two distinct states of microglial activation have been described (Gordon, 2003; Kigerl et al, 2009; Maresz et al, 2008; Mosser & Edwards, 2008; Perego et al; Ponomarev et al, 2005; Moehle and West, 2015): The M1 state is classically triggered by interferon-gamma and/or other pro-inflammatory cytokines, and this state is characterized by increased expression of integrin alpha M (Itgam) and CD86, as well as the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6), and it is mostly associated with neurodegeneration. The M2 state is triggered by IL-4 and IL-13 (Maresz et al, 2008; Perego et al, 2011; Ponomarev et al, 2007) and induces the expression of mannose receptor 1 (MRC1), arginase1 (Arg 1) and Ym1/2; it is involved in repair processes. The activation of astrocytes by microglia-derived cytokines or TLR agonists resembles the microglial M1 state (Falsig 2006). Although classification of the M1/M2 polarization of microglial cells may be considered as a simplification of authentic microglial reaction states (Ransohoff, 2016), a similar polarization of reactive astrocytes has been descibed recently Liddlelow et al., 2017): Interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1alpha), TNF and subcomponent q (C1q) released by activated microglial cells induce A1-reactive astrocytes, which lose the ability to promote neuronal survival, outgrowth, synaptogenesis and phagocytosis and induce the death of neurons and oligodendrocytes.
Neuroinflammation and Brain development
During brain development, microglia are known to play a critical role as shapers of neural circuits, by providing trophic factors and by remodeling and pruning synapses (Rajendran and Paolicelli, 2018). In addition to playing a role in synaptic management, microglia are important for the pruning of dying neurons and in the clearance of debris (Harry, 2013). Microglia seem to affect also processes associated with neuronal proliferation and differentiation (Harry and Kraft, 2012). Similarly to microglia, astrocytes have instructive roles in neurogenesis, gliogenesis, angiogenesis, axonal outgrowth, synaptogenesis, and synaptic pruning (Reemst et al., 2016).
The development-dependent reactivity of microglial cells and astrocytes is not well known. Ischemic insult appears to elicit similar microglial reactivity both during brain development and in adulthood (Baburamani et al, 2014; Leonardo & Pennypacker, 2009). In contrast, treatment with lead acetate was previously shown to result in a more pronounced microglial and astrocyte reactivity in immature 3D rat brain cell cultures as compared to mature ones (Zurich et al, 2002). Astrocyte reactivity was also more pronounced in immature 3D rat brain cell cultures following paraquat exposure, whereas development-dependent differences in the phenotype of reactive microglia were observed (Sandström et al., 2017). This suggests that neuroinflammation is occurring during brain development and may express a different phenotype than in adulthood, and that dysfunction of microglia and astrocyte during brain development could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders and potentially to late-onset neuropathology (Reemst et al., 2016).
Neuroinflammation in relation to COVID19
SARS-CoV-2 patients with moderate and severe COVID-19 presented an elevated plasma levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which is known as biochemical indicator of glial activation (Kanberg et al., 2020).
How It Is Measured or Detected
Neuroinflammation, i.e. the activation of glial cells can be measured by quantification of cellular markers (most commonly), or of released mediators (less common). As multiple activation states exist for the two main cell types involved, it is necessary to measure several markers of neuroinflammation:
- Microglial activation can be detected based on the increased numbers of labeled microglia per volume element of brain tissue (due to increase of binding sites, proliferation, and immigration of cells) or on morphological changes. A specific microglial marker, used across different species, is CD11b. Alternatively various specific carbohydrate structures can be stained by lectins (e.g. IB4). Beyond that, various well-established antibodies are available to detect microglia in mouse tissue (F4/80), phagocytic microglia in rat tissue (ED1) or more generally microglia across species (Iba1). Transgenic mice are available with fluorescent proteins under the control of the CD11b promoter to easily quantify microglia without the need for specific stains.
- The most frequently used astrocyte marker is GFAP (99% of all studies) (Eng et al., 2000). This protein is highly specific for astrocytes in the brain, and antibodies are available for immunocytochemical detection. In neuroinflammatory brain regions, the stain becomes more prominent, due to an upregulation of the protein, a shape change/proliferation of the cells, and/or better accessibility of the antibody. Various histological quantification approaches can be used. Occasionally, alternative astrocytic markers, such as vimentin of the S100beta protein, have been used for staining of astrocytes (Struzynska et al., 2007). Antibodies for complement component 3 (C3), the most characteristic and highly upregulated marker of A1 neurotoxic reactive astrocytes are commercially available.
- All immunocytochemical methods can also be applied to cell culture models.
- In patients, microglial accumulation can be monitored by PET imaging, using [11C]-PK 11195 as a microglial marker (Banati et al., 2002).
- Activation of glial cells can be assessed in tissue or cell culture models also by quantification of sets of activation markers. This can for instance be done by PCR quantification of inflammatory factors, by measurement of the respective mediators, e.g. by ELISA-related immuno-quantification. Such markers include:
- Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine expression (IL-1β; TNF-α, Il-6, IL-4); or expression of immunostimmulatory proteins (e.g. MHC-II)
- Itgam, CD86 expression as markers of M1 microglial phenotype
- Arg1, MRC1, as markers of M2 microglial phenotype
For descriptions of techniques, see Falsig 2004; Lund 2006 ; Kuegler 2010; Monnet-Tschudi et al., 2011; Sandström et al., 2014; von Tobel et al., 2014
Regulatory example using the KE
Measurement of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in brain tissue, whose increase is a marker of astrocyte reactivity, is required by the US EPA in rodent toxicity studies for fuel additives (40 CFR 79.67). It has been used on rare occasions for other toxicant evaluations.
Domain of Applicability
Neuroinflammation is observed in human, monkey, rat, mouse, and zebrafish, in association with neurodegeneration or following toxicant exposure, or SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus infection. Some references (non-exhaustive list) are given below for illustration:
Human: Vennetti et al., 2006
Monkey (Macaca fascicularis): Charleston et al., 1994, 1996
Rat: Little et al., 2012; Zurich et al., 2002; Eskes et al., 2002
Mouse: Liu et al., 2012
Zebrafish: Xu et al., 2014.
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