Viral infection is one of the leading causes of brain encephalitis and meningitis. Recently, it was reported that Toll-like receptor-3 (TLR3) induces a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-mediated inflammatory signal in the cells of the innate immune system, and studies suggested that dsRNA may induce inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) by activating the CNS-resident glial cells. To explore further the connection between dsRNA and inflammation in the CNS, we have studied the effects of dsRNA stimulation in astrocytes. Our results show that the injection of polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)), a synthetic dsRNA, into the striatum of the mouse brain induces the activation of astrocytes and the expression of TNF-alpha, IFN-beta, and IP-10. Stimulation with poly(I:C) also induces the expression of these proinflammatory genes in primary astrocytes and in CRT-MG, a human astrocyte cell line. Furthermore, our studies on the intracellular signaling pathways reveal that poly(I:C) stimulation activates IkappaB kinase (IKK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in CRT-MG. Pharmacological inhibitors of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), JNK, ERK, glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta), and dsRNA-activated protein kinase (PKR) inhibit the expression of IL-8 and IP-10 in astrocytes, indicating that the activation of these signaling molecules is required for the TLR3-mediated chemokine gene induction. Interestingly, the inhibition of PI3 kinase suppressed the expression of IP-10, but upregulated the expression of IL-8, suggesting differential roles for PI3 kinase, depending on the target genes. These data suggest that the TLR3 expressed on astrocytes may initiate an inflammatory response upon viral infection in the CNS.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.