Alzheimer's disease pathology includes, beside neuronal damage, reactive gliosis and reduced blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity. Microglia are intimately associated with the BBB and upon AD pathology, pro-inflammatory responses of microglia could contribute to BBB damage. To study whether microglia can directly affect BBB integrity, the effects of amyloid beta (Aβ) -stimulated primary murine microglia on co-cultured mouse brain endothelial cells (bEnd3) and murine astrocyte cultures were assessed. We also assessed whether microglial phenotype modulation via poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) inhibition/ablation can reverse microglial impact on these BBB forming cells.
Unstimulated microglia promoted expression of tight junction proteins (TJPs), zonula ocluden-1 (ZO-1) and occludin in co-cultured endothelia cells, whereas Aβ-stimulated microglia reduced endothelial expression of ZO-1 and occludin. Astrocytes co-cultured with microglia showed elevated glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression, which was further increased if microglia had been stimulated with Aβ. Aβ induced microglial release of nitric oxide (NO) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which resulted in reduced endothelial expression of TJPs and increased paracellular permeability. Microglial PARP-1 inhibition attenuated these Aβ-induced events. These findings demonstrate that PARP-1 mediated microglial responses (NO and TNFα) can directly reduce BBB integrity by promoting TJP degradation, increasing endothelial cell permeability and inducing astrogliosis. PARP-1 as a modulator of microglial phenotype can prevent microglial BBB damaging events, and thus is a potential therapeutic target.