Hypoxic-ischemia (HI) and inflammation are the two major pathogenic mechanisms of brain injury in very preterm infants. The neurovascular unit is the major target of HI injury in the immature brain. Systemic inflammation may worsen HI by up-regulating neuroinflammation and disrupting the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Since neurons and oligodendrocytes, microvascular endothelial cells, and microglia may closely interact with each other, there may be a common signaling pathway leading to neuroinflammation and neurovascular damage after injury in the immature brain. TNF-α is a key pro-inflammatory cytokine that acts through the TNF receptor (TNFR), and c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) are important stress-responsive kinases. Objective: To determine if TNFR1-JNK signaling is a shared pathway underlying neuroinflammation and neurovascular injury after lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-sensitized HI in the immature brain. Methods: Postpartum (P) day-5 mice received LPS or normal saline (NS) injection before HI. Immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting and TNFR1- and TNFR2-knockout mouse pups were used to determine neuroinflammation, BBB damage, TNF-α expression, JNK activation, and cell apoptosis. The cellular distribution of p-JNK, TNFR1/TNFR2 and cleaved caspase-3 were examined using immunofluorescent staining. Results: The LPS + HI group had significantly greater up-regulation of activated microglia, TNF-α and TNFR1 expression, and increases of BBB disruption and cleaved caspase-3 levels at 24 hours post-insult, and showed more cortical and white matter injury on P17 than the control and NS + HI groups. Cleaved caspase-3 was highly expressed in microvascular endothelial cells, neurons, and oligodendroglial precursor cells. LPS-sensitized HI also induced JNK activation and up-regulation of TNFR1 but not TNFR2 expression in the microglia, endothelial cells, neurons, and oligodendrocyte progenitors, and most of the TNFR1-positive cells co-expressed p-JNK. Etanercept (a TNF-α inhibitor) and AS601245 (a JNK inhibitor) protected against LPS-sensitized HI brain injury. The TNFR1-knockout but not TNFR2-knockout pups had significant reduction in JNK activation, attenuation of microglial activation, BBB breakdown and cleaved caspase-3 expression, and showed markedly less cortical and white matter injury than the wild-type pups after LPS-sensitized HI. Conclusion: TNFR1-JNK signaling is the shared pathway leading to neuroinflammation and neurovascular damage after LPS-sensitized HI in the immature brain.
- c-Jun N-terminal kinase
- Immature brain
- Neurovascular unit
- Tumor necrosis factor receptor 1
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience