Proinflammatory cytokine synthesis in the injured mouse spinal cord: multiphasic expression pattern and identification of the cell types involved

J Comp Neurol. 2007 Jan 10;500(2):267-85. doi: 10.1002/cne.21149.


We have studied the spatial and temporal distribution of six proinflammatory cytokines and identified their cellular source in a clinically relevant model of spinal cord injury (SCI). Our findings show that interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) are rapidly (<5 and 15 minutes, respectively) and transiently expressed in mice following contusion. At 30-45 minutes post SCI, IL-1beta and TNF-positive cells could already be seen over the entire spinal cord segment analyzed. Multilabeling analyses revealed that microglia and astrocytes were the two major sources of IL-1beta and TNF at these times, suggesting a role for these cytokines in gliosis. Results obtained from SCI mice previously transplanted with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing hematopoietic stem cells confirmed that neural cells were responsible for the production of IL-1beta and TNF for time points preceding 3 hours. From 3 hours up to 24 hours, IL-1beta, TNF, IL-6, and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) were strongly upregulated within and immediately around the contused area. Colocalization studies revealed that all populations of central nervous system resident cells, including neurons, synthesized cytokines between 3 and 24 hours post SCI. However, work done with SCI-GFP chimeric mice revealed that at least some infiltrating leukocytes were responsible for cytokine production from 12 hours on. By 2 days post-SCI, mRNA signal for all the above cytokines had nearly disappeared. Notably, we also observed another wave of expression for IL-1beta and TNF at 14 days. Overall, these results indicate that following SCI, all classes of neural cells initially contribute to the organization of inflammation, whereas recruited immune cells mostly contribute to its maintenance at later time points.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / immunology
  • Chimera
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gliosis / immunology*
  • Gliosis / metabolism
  • Gliosis / physiopathology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor / genetics
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Myelitis / immunology*
  • Myelitis / metabolism
  • Myelitis / physiopathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / immunology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Wallerian Degeneration / immunology
  • Wallerian Degeneration / metabolism
  • Wallerian Degeneration / physiopathology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins