Microglia is activated by astrocytes in trimethyltin intoxication

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Microglia participates in most acute and chronic neuropathologies and its activation appears to involve interactions with neurons and other glial cells. Trimethyltin (TMT)-induced brain damage is a well-characterized model of neurodegeneration, in which microglial activation occurs before neuronal degeneration. The aim of this in vitro study was to investigate the role of astroglia in TMT-induced microgliosis by using nitric oxide (NO), inducible NO synthase (iNOS), and morphological changes as parameters for microglial activation. Our investigation discusses (a) whether microglial cells can be activated directly by TMT; (b) if astroglial cells are capable of triggering or modulating microglial activation; (c) how the morphology and survival of microglia and astrocytes are affected by TMT treatment; and (d) whether microglial–astroglial interactions depend on direct cell contact or on soluble factors. Our results show that microglia are more vulnerable to TMT than astrocytes are and cannot be activated directly by TMT with regard to the examined parameters. In bilayer coculture with viable astroglial cells, microglia produce NO in significant amounts at subcytotoxic concentrations of TMT (20 μmol/l). At these TMT concentrations, microglial cells in coculture convert into small round cells without cell processes, whereas flat, fibroblast-like astrocytes convert into thin process bearing stellate cells with a dense and compact cell body.We conclude that astrocytes trigger microglial activation after treatment with TMT, although the mechanisms of this interaction remain unknown.

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