The effects of insulin on the inflammatory activity of BV2 microglia

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Microglia are the macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS), which function to monitor and maintain homeostasis. Microglial activation occurs after CNS injury, infection or disease. Prolonged microglial activation is detrimental to the CNS as they produce nitric oxide (NO), reactive oxygen species (ROS) and pro-inflammatory cytokines, resulting in neuronal cell dysfunction and death. Microglial activation is implicated in the neurological deficits following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease. Intranasal insulin administration is a promising treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and TBI. However, the exact effect of insulin on microglia is currently unclear. The goal of this study was therefore to examine the effect of insulin administration on activated microglia. The microglial cell line BV2 were exposed to a pro-inflammatory stimulus, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), followed by insulin administration. Outcome measures were conducted at 24 hours after treatment. In vitro assays quantified NO and ROS production. Western blot, immunocytochemistry and phagocytosis assay further examined the effect of insulin on microglial activity. Insulin treatment significantly reduced NO, ROS and TNFα production and increased phagocytic activity. Insulin treatment also significantly reduced iNOS expression, but had no significant effect on any other M1 or M2 macrophage polarization marker examined. These data suggest that insulin has very specific effects to reduce pro-inflammatory or chemoattractant properties of microglia, and this may be one mechanism by which insulin has beneficial effects in CNS injury or neurode-generative conditions.




Brabazon, F., Bermudez, S., Shaughness, M., Khayrullina, G., & Byrnes, K. R. (2018). The effects of insulin on the inflammatory activity of BV2 microglia. PLoS ONE, 13(8).

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