De Chiara G, Marcocci ME, Sgarbanti R, Civitelli L, Ripoli C, Piacentini R, Garaci E, Grassi C, Palamara AT. Infectious Agents and Neurodegeneration. 2012 Aug 17.


A growing body of epidemiologic and experimental data point to chronic bacterial and viral infections as possible risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Infections of the central nervous system, especially those characterized by a chronic progressive course, may produce multiple damage in infected and neighbouring cells. The activation of inflammatory processes and host immune responses cause chronic damage resulting in alterations of neuronal function and viability, but different pathogens can also directly trigger neurotoxic pathways. Indeed, viral and microbial agents have been repor to produce molecular hallmarks of neurodegeneration, such as the production and deposit of misfolded protein aggregates, oxidative stress, deficient autophagic processes, synaptopathies and neuronal death. These effects may act in synergy with other recognized risk factors, such as aging, concomitant metabolic diseases and the host's specific genetic signature. This review will focus on the contribution given to neurodegeneration by herpes simplex type-1, human immunodeficiency and influenza viruses, and by Chlamydia pneumoniae.


Kempf SJ, Azimzadeh O, Atkinson MJ, Tapio S. Long-term effects of ionising radiation on the brain: cause for concern? Radiat Environ Biophys. 2012 Oct 26.


There is no clear evidence proving or disproving that ionising radiation is causally linked with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. However, it is known that high doses of ionising radiation to the head (20-50 Gy) lead to severe learning and memory impairment which is characteristical for Alzheimer's. The cumulative doses of ionising radiation to the Western population are accruing, mostly due to the explosive growth of medical imaging procedures. Children are in particular prone to ionising radiation as the molecular processes within the brain are not completely finished. Furthermore, they have a long lifespan under risk. We wish to open a debate if such low doses of radiation exposure may lead to delayed long-term cognitive and other defects, albeit at a lower frequency than those observed during application of high doses. Further, we want to sensitise the society towards the risks of ionising radiation. To achieve these aims, we will recapitulate the known symptoms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's on the molecular level and incorporate data of mainly low- and moderate-ionising radiation (<5 Gy). Thus, we want to highlight in general the potential similarities of both the neurodegenerative and radiation-induced pathways. We will propose a mechanistic model for radiation-induced neurodegeneration pointing out mitochondria as a key element. This includes effects of oxidative stress and neuroinflammation-all fundamental players of neurodegenerative diseases


Young EE, Vichaya EG, Reusser NM, Cook JL, Steelman AJ, Welsh CJ, Meagher MW. Chronic social stress impairs virus specific adaptive immunity during acute Theiler's virus infection. 2012 Sep 27


Prior exposure to social disruption (SDR) stress exacerbates Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) infection, a model of multiple sclerosis.Here we examined the impact of SDR on T cell responses to TMEV infection in SJL mice. SDR impaired viral clearance and exacerbated acute disease. Moreover, TMEV infection alone increased CD4 and CD8 mRNA expression in brain and spleen while SDR impaired this response. SDR decreased both CD4(+) and CD8(+) virus-specific T cells in CNS, but not spleen. These findings suggest that SDR-induced suppression of virus-specific T cell responses contributes to impairments in viral clearance and exacerbation of acute disease.


Leibowitz A, Boyko M, Shapira Y, Zlotnik A.. Blood glutamate scavenging: insight into neuroprotection. 2012;13(8):10041-66. Epub 2012 Aug 13

Brain insults are characterized by a multitude of complex processes, of which glutamate release plays a major role. Deleterious excess of glutamate in the brain's extracellular fluids stimulates glutamate receptors, which in turn lead to cell swelling, apoptosis, and neuronal death. These exacerbate neurological outcome. Approaches aimed at antagonizing the astrocytic and glial glutamate receptors have failed to demonstrate clinical benefit. Alternatively, eliminating excess glutamate from brain interstitial fluids by making use of the naturally occurring brain-to-blood glutamate efflux has been shown to be effective in various animal studies. This is facilitated by gradient driven transport across brain capillary endothelial glutamate transporters. Blood glutamate scavengers enhance this naturally occurring mechanism by reducing the blood glutamate concentration, thus increasing the rate at which excess glutamate is cleared. Blood glutamate scavenging is achieved by several
mechanisms including: catalyzation of the enzymatic process involved in glutamate metabolism, redistribution of glutamate into tissue, and acute stress response. Regardless of the mechanism involved, decreased blood glutamate concentration is associated with improved neurological outcome. This review focuses on the physiological, mechanistic and clinical roles of blood glutamate scavenging, particularly in the context of acute and chronic CNS injury. We discuss the details of brain-to-blood glutamate efflux, auto-regulation mechanisms of blood glutamate, natural and exogenous blood glutamate scavenging systems, and redistribution of glutamate. We then propose different applied methodologies to reduce blood and brain glutamate concentrations and discuss the neuroprotective role of blood glutamate scavenging.


Morris G, Maes M. A Neuro-immune model of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome.2012 Jun 21

This paper proposes a neuro-immune model for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). A wide range of immunological and neurological abnormalities have been reported in people suffering from ME/CFS. They include abnormalities in proinflammatory cytokines, raised production of nuclear factor-κB, mitochondrial dysfunctions, autoimmune responses, autonomic disturbances and brain pathology. Raised levels of oxidative and nitrosative stress (O&NS), together with reduced levels of antioxidants are indicative of an immuno-inflammatory pathology. A number of different pathogens have been reported either as triggering or maintaining factors. Our model proposes that initial infection and immune activation caused by a number of possible pathogens leads to a state of chronic peripheral immune activation driven by activated O&NS pathways that lead to progressive damage of self epitopes even when the initial infection has been cleared. Subsequent activation of autoreactive T cells conspiring with O&NS pathways cause further damage and provoke chronic activation of immuno-inflammatory pathways. The subsequent upregulation of proinflammatory compounds may activate microglia via the vagus nerve. Elevated proinflammatory cytokines together with raised O&NS conspire to produce mitochondrial damage. The subsequent ATP deficit together with inflammation and O&NS are responsible for the landmark symptoms of ME/CFS, including post-exertional malaise. Raised levels of O&NS subsequently cause progressive elevation of autoimmune activity facilitated by molecular mimicry, bystander activation or epitope spreading. These processes provoke central nervous system (CNS) activation in an attempt to restore immune homeostatsis. This model proposes that the antagonistic activities of the CNS response to peripheral inflammation, O&NS and chronic immune activation are responsible for the remitting-relapsing nature of ME/CFS. Leads for future research are suggested based on this neuro-immune model.

Christensen JH, Elfving B, Müller HK, Fryland T, Nyegaard M, Corydon TJ, Nielsen AL, Mors O, Wegener G, Børglum AD. The Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder associated BRD1 gene is regulated upon chronic restraint stress. 2012 Sep;22(9):651-6


Recent genetic evidence has implicated the bromodomain containing 1 gene (BRD1) with brain development and susceptibility to Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. The BRD1 protein, which is essential for acetylation of histone H3K14, is a putative regulator of
transcription during brain development and in the mature CNS. However, several issues remain to be clarified for example regarding the regulation of the BRD1 gene upon environmental interventions. Chronic restraint stress (CRS) in rats represents an environmental method for induction of morphological and functional changes in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. In order to investigate whether the expression of the rat Brd1 gene may be regulated during such conditions, Brd1 mRNA and protein levels in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex extracts from rats subjected to either 1/2 or 6h of CRS per day for 21 days were measured. We found a significant 2-fold up-regulation of long exon 7 splice variants of the Brd1 gene (Brd1-L) in hippocampus in both groups of CRS rats compared to controls. Concomitantly, we found a similar up-regulation of the BRD1 protein. In prefrontal cortex, we found no significant differences in Brd1 mRNA or protein levels. As selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors not only preserve stress-induced hyperacetylation of histone H3K14 but also have hippocampal-dependent antidepressant-like activity, we propose that BRD1 by its intrinsic acetylation activity towards histone H3K14 is a player in the regulatory processes underlying adaptation to stress in the mature CNS.


Masi G, Brovedani P. The hippocampus, neurotrophic factors and depression: possible implications for the pharmacotherapy of depression. CNS Drugs. 2011 Nov 1;25(11):913-31


Depression is a prevalent, highly debilitating mental disorder affecting up to 15% of the population at least once in their lifetime, with huge costs for society. Neurobiological mechanisms of depression are still not well known, although there is consensus about interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Antidepressant medications are frequently used in depression, but at least 50% of patients are poor responders, even to more recently discovered medications. Furthermore, clinical response only occurs following weeks to months of treatment and only chronic treatment is effective, suggesting that actions beyond the rapidly occurring effect of enhancing monoaminergic systems, such as adaptation of these systems, are responsible for the effects of antidepressants. Recent studies indicate that an impairment of synaptic plasticity (neurogenesis, axon branching, dendritogenesis and synaptogenesis) in specific areas of the CNS, particularly the hippocampus, may be a core factor in the pathophysiology of depression. The abnormal neural plasticity may be related to alterations in the levels of neurotrophic factors, namely brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which play a central role in plasticity. As BDNF is repressed by stress, epigenetic regulation of the BDNF gene may play an important role in depression. The hippocampus is smaller in depressed patients, although it is unclear whether smaller size is a consequence of depression or a pre-existing, vulnerability marker for depression. Environmental stressors triggering activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis cause the brain to be exposed to corticosteroids, affecting neurobehavioural functions with a strong downregulation of hippocampal neurogenesis, and are a major risk factor for depression. Antidepressant treatment increases BDNF levels, stimulates neurogenesis and reverses the inhibitory effects of stress, but this effect is evident only after 3-4 weeks of administration, the time course for maturation of new neurons. The ablation of hippocampal neurogenesis blocks the behavioural effects of antidepressants in animal models. The above findings suggest ne possible targets for the pharmacotherapy of depression such as neurotrophic factors, their receptors and related intracellular signalling cascades; agents counteracting the effects of stress on hippocampal neurogenesis (including antagonists of corticosteroids, inflammatory cytokines and their receptors); and agents facilitating the activation of gene expression and increasing the transcription of neurotrophins in the brain


Mouillet-Richard S, Baudry A, Launay JM, Kellermann O. MicroRNAs and depression


With an estimated life-time prevalence of 15 to 17% and an incapacitating illness in 50% of cases, depressive spectrum disorders represent a heavy public health burden. Despite considerable efforts to underpin the molecular and cellular changes associated with depressive states, a global understanding of the pathophysiology of major depressive disorders (MDD) is still lacking. It is now acknowledged that deficits in synaptic plasticity, such as those resulting from chronic stress, can set the stage for the onset of depression. As a corollary, antidepressants balance neurotransmitter systems and help restore neuronal activity. In recent years, microRNAs have emerged as key protagonists in numerous physiopathological conditions including CNS function and disease. This review summarizes the current evidence for an involvement of microRNAs in the pathophysiology of depression and their contribution to the action of antidepressants.


Frank MG, Thompson BM, Watkins LR, Maier SF. Glucocorticoids mediate stress-induced priming of microglial pro-inflammatory responses. Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Feb;26(2):337-45

Acute and chronic stress sensitizes or "primes" the neuroinflammatory response to a subsequent pro-inflammatory challenge. While prior evidence shows that glucocorticoids (GCs) play a pivotal role in stress-induced potentiation of neuroinflammatory responses, it remains unclear whether stress-induced GCs sensitize the response of key CNS immune substrates (i.e. microglia) to pro-inflammatory stimuli. An ex vivo approach was used to address this question. Here, stress-induced GC signaling was manipulated in vivo and hippocampal microglia challenged with the pro-inflammatory stimulus LPS ex vivo. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were either pretreated in vivo with the GC receptor antagonist RU486 or adrenalectomized (ADX). Animals were then exposed to an acute stressor (inescapable tailshock; IS) and 24 h later hippocampal microglia were isolated and challenged with LPS to probe for stress-induced sensitization of pro-inflammatory responses. Prior exposure to IS resulted in a potentiated pro-inflammatory cytokine response (e.g. IL-1β gene expression) to LPS in isolated microglia. Treatment in vivo with RU486 and ADX inhibited or completely blocked this IS-induced sensitization of the microglial pro-inflammatory response. The present results suggest that stress-induced GCs function to sensitize the microglial pro-inflammatory response (IL-1β, IL-6, NFκBIα) to immunologic challenges.


Baker DG, Nievergelt CM, O'Connor DT. Biomarkers of PTSD: neuropeptides and immune signaling. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Feb;62(2):663-73. Epub 2011 Mar 22


The biological underpinnings for participation of the immune system in the pathogenesis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include evidence for cross-talk between the stress and immune systems, as well as more recently discovered roles for immune system mediators in core behavioral functions such as adult neurogenesis, as well as in processes that underlay synaptic plasticity, such as learning and memory. This article reviews the expanding body of literature on immune system mediators in the periphery and the central nervous system (CNS) in chronic PTSD along with the evidence for increased peripheral inflammation, and excess morbidity and mortality. CNS inflammation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression. This literature is briefly reviewed, along with evidence for a possible role for CNS inflammation in PTSD symptoms, especially in individuals who have PTSD with co-morbid depression. Whether the immune system is involved in risk and resilience, or evolution of PTSD symptoms following a trauma event remains to be determined, although hypotheses have been advanced. This paper reviews the current evidence including the novel hypothesis that cellular immunity is implicated in PTSD risk and resilience. Potential research implications and directions are discussed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'.

Rook GA, Lowry CA, Raison CL Lymphocytes in neuroprotection, cognition and emotion: is intolerance really the answer? 2011 May;25(4):591-601. Epub 2010 Dec 16.


Clinical, epidemiological and therapeutic studies indicate that some human depression is associated with proinflammatory cytokines, chronic inflammatory disorders, and inflammation-inducing lifestyle factors. Moreover depression can be induced by administration of proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-2 or IFN-α. However, recent studies in specific pathogen-free (SPF) rodents suggest a different--and potentially contradictory--relationship between immune processes and mental health. These studies suggest that effector T cells specific for central nervous system (CNS) antigens can assist recovery from an array of environmental insults ranging from nerve injury to psychological stress, while in contrast, regulatory T cells (Treg) oppose such recovery. Indeed, some reported effects of this so-called "protective autoimmunity" seem of direct relevance to depressive disorders. These findings pose a dilemma for those intending to manipulate inflammatory pathways as a treatment for depression. Should we administer anti-inflammatory treatments, or should we induce self-reactive T cells? We re-examine the rodent findings and outline immunological peculiarities of SPF rodents, the abnormal properties of their regulatory T cells, and the impact of gut microbiota. We find that "protective autoimmunity" is likely to be relevant only to very clean SPF animals that lack normal levels of activated T cells, CNS T cell traffic and mature Treg. The data indicate that even in SPF models the effectors of beneficial effects are not the proinflammatory autoimmune cells themselves, but rather unidentified regulatory cells. This reinterpretation of findings relevant to "protective autoimmunity" suggests that ongoing, and planned, clinical trials of anti-inflammatory strategies to treat depressive disorders are justified.



Ni M, Li X, Yin Z, Jiang H, Sidoryk-Wegrzynowicz M, Milatovic D, Cai J, Aschner M. Methylmercury induces acute oxidative stress, altering Nrf2 protein level in primary microglial cells. 2010 Aug;116(2):590-603.


The neurotoxicity of methylmercury (MeHg) is well documented in both humans and animals. MeHg causes acute and chronic damage to multiple organs, most profoundly the central nervous system (CNS). Microglial cells are derived from macrophage cell lineage, making up approximately 12% of cells in the CNS, yet their role in MeHg-induced neurotoxicity is not well defined. The purpose of the present study was to characterize microglial vulnerability to MeHg and their potential adaptive response to acute MeHg exposure. We examined the effects of MeHg on microglial viability, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, glutathione (GSH) level, redox homeostasis, and Nrf2 protein expression. Our data showed that MeHg (1-5 microM) treatment caused a rapid (within 1 min) concentration- and time-dependent increase in ROS generation, accompanied by a statistically significant decrease in the ratio of GSH and its oxidized form glutathione disulfide (GSSG) (GSH:GSSG ratio). MeHg increased the cytosolic Nrf2 protein level within 1 min of exposure, followed by its nuclear translocation after 10 min of treatment. Consistent with the nuclear translocation of Nrf2, quantitative real-time PCR revealed a concentration-dependent increase in the messenger RNA level of Ho-1, Nqo1, and xCT 30 min post MeHg exposure, whereas Nrf2 knockdown greatly reduced the upregulation of these genes. Furthermore, we observed increased microglial death upon Nrf2 knockdown by the small hairpin RNA approach. Taken together, our study has demonstrated that microglial cells are exquisitely sensitive to MeHg and respond rapidly to MeHg by upregulating the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response