BACKGROUND: The perinatal period is one in which the mammalian brain is particularly vulnerable to immune-mediated damage. Early inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) is linked with long-term impairment in learning and behavior, necessitating a better understanding of mediators of neuroinflammation. We therefore directly examined how age affected neuroinflammatory responses to pathogenic stimuli.<br /><br />METHODS: In mice, susceptibility to neurological damage changes dramatically during the first few weeks of life. Accordingly, we compared neuroinflammatory responses to pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) of neonatal (two day-old) and weanling (21 day-old) mice. Mice were inoculated intracerebrally with PAMPs and the cellular and molecular changes in the neuroinflammatory response were examined.<br /><br />RESULTS: Of the 12 cytokines detected in the CNS following toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) stimulation, ten were significantly higher in neonates compared with weanling mice. A similar pattern of increased cytokines in neonates was also observed with TLR9 stimulation. Analysis of cellular responses indicated a difference in microglial activation markers in the CNS of neonatal mice and increased expression of proteins known to modulate cellular activation including CD11a, F4/80 and CD172a. We also identified a new marker on microglia, SLAMF7, which was expressed at higher levels in neonates compared with weanlings.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: A unique neuroinflammatory profile, including higher expression of several proinflammatory cytokines and differential expression of microglial markers, was observed in brain tissue from neonates following TLR stimulation. This increased neuroinflammatory response to PAMPs may explain why the developing brain is particularly sensitive to infection and why infection or stress during this time can lead to long-term damage in the CNS.
Christensen, L. B., Woods, T. A., Carmody, A. B., Caughey, B., & Peterson, K. E. (2014). Age-related differences in neuroinflammatory responses associated with a distinct profile of regulatory markers on neonatal microglia. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-2094-11-70