Mer regulates microglial/macrophage M1/M2 polarization and alleviates neuroinflammation following traumatic brain injury
Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Microglial/macrophage activation and neuroinflammation are key cellular events following TBI, but the regulatory and functional mechanisms are still not well understood. Myeloid-epithelial-reproductive tyrosine kinase (Mer), a member of the Tyro-Axl-Mer (TAM) family of receptor tyrosine kinases, regulates multiple features of microglial/macrophage physiology. However, its function in regulating the innate immune response and microglial/macrophage M1/M2 polarization in TBI has not been addressed. The present study aimed to evaluate the role of Mer in regulating microglial/macrophage M1/M2 polarization and neuroinflammation following TBI.
Methods: The controlled cortical impact (CCI) mouse model was employed. Mer siRNA was intracerebroventricularly administered, and recombinant protein S (PS) was intravenously applied for intervention. The neurobehavioral assessments, RT-PCR, Western blot, magnetic-activated cell sorting, immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy analysis, Nissl and Fluoro-Jade B staining, brain water content measurement, and contusion volume assessment were performed.
Results: Mer is upregulated and regulates microglial/macrophage M1/M2 polarization and neuroinflammation in the acute stage of TBI. Mechanistically, Mer activates the signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1)/suppressor of cytokine signaling 1/3 (SOCS1/3) pathway. Inhibition of Mer markedly decreases microglial/macrophage M2-like polarization while increases M1-like polarization, which exacerbates the secondary brain damage and sensorimotor deficits after TBI. Recombinant PS exerts beneficial effects in TBI mice through Mer activation.
Conclusions: Mer is an important regulator of microglial/macrophage M1/M2 polarization and neuroinflammation, and may be considered as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in TBI.
Keywords: M1/M2 polarization; Mer; Microglia/macrophage; Neuroinflammation; TBI.