Neurons and astroglia govern microglial endotoxin tolerance through macrophage colony-stimulating factor receptor-mediated ERK1/2 signals

Chun Hsien Chu, Shijun Wang, Chia Ling Li, Shih Heng Chen, Chih Fen Hu, Yi Lun Chung, Shiou Lan Chen, Qingshan Wang, Ru Band Lu, Hui Ming Gao, Jau Shyong Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Endotoxin tolerance (ET) is a reduced responsiveness of innate immune cells like macrophages/monocytes to an endotoxin challenge following a previous encounter with the endotoxin. Although ET in peripheral systems has been well studied, little is known about ET in the brain. The present study showed that brain immune cells, microglia, being different from peripheral macrophages, displayed non-cell autonomous mechanisms in ET formation. Specifically, neurons and astroglia were indispensable for microglial ET. Macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) secreted from these non-immune cells was essential for governing microglial ET. Neutralization of M-CSF deprived the neuron-glia conditioned medium of its ability to enable microglia to form ET when microglia encountered two lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatments. Recombinant M-CSF protein rendered enriched microglia refractory to the second LPS challenge leading to microglial ET. Activation of microglial M-CSF receptor (M-CSFR; also known as CSF1R) and the downstream ERK1/2 signals was responsible for M-CSF-mediated microglial ET. Endotoxin-tolerant microglia in neuron-glia cultures displayed M2-like polarized phenotypes, as shown by upregulation of M2 marker Arg-1, elevated production of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 10, and decreased secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators (tumor necrosis factor α, nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2 and interleukin 1β). Endotoxin-tolerant microglia protected neurons against LPS-elicited inflammatory insults, as shown by reduced neuronal damages in LPS pre-treatment group compared with the group without LPS pre-treatment. Moreover, while neurons and astroglia became injured during chronic neuroinflammation, microglia failed to form ET. Thus, this study identified a distinct non-cell autonomous mechanism of microglial ET. Interactions of M-CSF secreted by neurons and astroglia with microglial M-CSFR programed microglial ET. Loss of microglial ET could be an important pathogenetic mechanism of inflammation-associated neuronal damages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-272
Number of pages13
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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