Microglia are the major source of TNF-α and TGF-β1 in postnatal glial cultures; regulation by cytokines, lipopolysaccharide, and vitronectin

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Abstract

Damage to the central nervous system (CNS) leads to increased production of TNF-α and TGF-β1 cytokines that have pro- or anti-inflammatory actions, respectively. To define whether astrocytes or microglia express these cytokines, prior studies have used mixed glial cultures (MGC) to represent astrocytes, thought these results are inevitably complicated by the presence of contaminating microglia within MGC. To clarify the cellular source of these cytokines, here we employed a recently described method of preparing microglia-free astrocyte cultures, in which neural stem cells (NSC) are differentiated into astrocytes. Using ELISA to quantify cytokine production in three types of glial culture: MGC, pure microglia or pure astrocytes, this showed that microglia but not astrocytes, produce TNF-α, and that this expression is increased by LPS, IFN-γ, and to a lesser extent by vitronectin, but decreased by TGF-β1. In contrast, TGF-β1 was produced by microglia and astrocytes, though at 10-fold higher levels by microglia. TGF-β1 expression in microglia was increased by vitronectin and to a lesser extent by TNF-α and LPS, but astrocyte TGF-β1 expression was not regulated by any factor tested. In summary, our data reveal that microglia, not astrocytes are the major source of TNF-α and TGF-β1 in postnatal glial cultures, and that microglial production of these antagonistic cytokines is tightly regulated by cytokines, LPS, and vitronectin.

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