Targeting the CD80/CD86 costimulatory pathway with CTLA4-Ig directs microglia toward a repair phenotype and promotes axonal outgrowth

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Among the costimulatory factors widely studied in the immune system is the CD28/cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA4)-CD80/CD86 pathway, which critically controls the nature and duration of the T-cell response. In the brain, up-regulated expression of CD80/CD86 during inflammation has consistently been reported in microglia. However, the role of CD80/CD86 molecules has mainly been studied in a context of microglia-T cell interactions in pathological conditions, while the function of CD80/CD86 in the regulation of intrinsic brain cells remains largely unknown. In this study, we used a transgenic pig line in which neurons express releasable CTLA4-Ig, a synthetic molecule mimicking CTLA4 and binding to CD80/CD86. The effects of CTLA4-Ig on brain cells were analyzed after intracerebral transplantation of CTLA4-Ig-expressing neurons or wild-type neurons as control. This model provided in vivo evidence that CTLA4-Ig stimulated axonal outgrowth, in correlation with a shift of the nearby microglia from a compact to a ramified morphology. In a culture system, we found that the CTLA4-Ig-induced morphological change of microglia was mediated through CD86, but not CD80. This was accompanied by microglial up-regulated expression of the anti-inflammatory molecule Arginase 1 and the neurotrophic factor BDNF, in an astrocyte-dependent manner through the purinergic P2Y1 receptor pathway. Our study identifies for the first time CD86 as a key player in the modulation of microglia phenotype and suggests that CTLA4-Ig-derived compounds might represent new tools to manipulate CNS microglia. GLIA 2015;63:2298–2312

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