Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes acute inflammatory responses that result in an enduring cascade of secondary neuronal loss and behavioral impairments. It has been reported that progesterone (PROG) can inhibit the increase of some inflammatory cytokines and inflammation-related factors induced by TBI. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a critical role in the induction and regulation of immune/inflammatory responses. Therefore, in the present study, we examined the genomic profiles of TLR-mediated pathways in traumatically injured brain and PROG's effects on these genes.
Methods: Bilateral cortical impact injury to the medial frontal cortex was induced in C57BL/6J mice. PROG was injected (i.p., 16 mg/kg body weight) at 1 and 6 h after surgery. Twenty-four hours post-surgery, mice were killed and peri-contusional brain tissue was harvested for genomic detection and protein measurement. RT-PCR arrays were used to measure the mRNA of 84 genes in TLR-mediated pathways. Western blot, ELISA and immunohistochemistry were used to confirm the protein expression of genes of interest.
Results: We found that 2 TLRs (TLR1 and 2), 5 adaptor/interacting proteins (CD14, MD-1, HSPA1a, PGRP and Ticam2) and 13 target genes (Ccl2, Csf3, IL1a, IL1b, IL1r1, IL6, IL-10, TNFa, Tnfrsf1a, Cebpb, Clec4e, Ptgs2 and Cxcl10) were significantly up-regulated after injury. Administration of PROG significantly down-regulated three of the 13 increased target genes after TBI (Ccl-2, IL-1b and Cxcl-10), but did not inhibit the expression of any of the detected TLRs and adaptor/interacting proteins. Rather, PROG up-regulated the expression of one TLR (TLR9), 5 adaptor/interacting proteins, 5 effectors and 10 downstream target genes. We confirmed that Ccl-2, Cxcl-10, TLR2 and TLR9 proteins were expressed in brain tissue, a finding consistent with our observations of mRNA expression.
Conclusion: The results demonstrate that TBI can increase gene expression in TLR-mediated pathways. PROG does not down-regulate the increased TLRs or their adaptor proteins in traumatically injured brain. Reduction of the observed inflammatory cytokines by PROG does not appear to be the result of inhibiting TLRs or their adaptors in the acute stage of TBI.