Induction of Early Growth Response-1 Mediates Microglia Activation In Vitro But is Dispensable In Vivo

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We have previously identified activation of microglia and induction of the early growth response gene 1 (Egr1) in the retina of retinoschisin-deficient (Rs1h−/Y) mice. We hypothesized that microglial expression of Egr1 might support retinal microgliosis. To test this, Egr1 transcript levels were determined in RNAs isolated from early postnatal retinas and primary microglia from Rs1h−/Y mice and wild-type controls. Egr1 mRNA expression was strongly induced in retinoschisin-deficient retinas as well as in ex vivo isolated microglia. Increased microglial Egr1 protein expression was concordantly detected in retinal sections of Rs1h−/Y mice using immunohistochemistry. Prominent activation-dependent Egr1 mRNA and protein expression was also confirmed in murine BV-2 microglia. Using binding site prediction and chromatin immunoprecipitation, we identified that the Egr1 promoter itself and the microglial marker genes Clec7a and Caspase11 are direct transcriptional targets of Egr1. Over-expression of Egr1 in BV-2 cells by adenoviral infection promoted Clec7a and Caspase11 mRNA synthesis, whereas expression of the Egr1 repressor NAB2 blocked the transcription of these genes. To analyze whether Egr1 was absolutely required for microglial marker expression in vivo, transcript levels were quantified in Rs1h−/Y/Egr1−/− retinas. No significant differences in activation marker expression could be measured in retinal tissue from Rs1h−/Y/Egr1−/− mice compared to Rs1h−/Y mice, suggesting that lack of Egr1 does not impair transcription of microglia genes in vivo. Taken together, our findings suggest that increased Egr1 expression is present in activated retinal microglia and contributes to their activation. However, up-regulation of Egr1 is not absolutely required for retinal microglia activation in vivo.

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