Microglial phagocytosis induced by fibrillar β-amyloid is attenuated by oligomeric β-amyloid: implications for Alzheimer's disease

Mol Neurodegener. 2011 Jun 30;6:45. doi: 10.1186/1750-1326-6-45.


Background: Reactive microglia are associated with β-amyloid (Aβ) deposit and clearance in Alzhiemer's Disease (AD). Paradoxically, entocranial resident microglia fail to trigger an effective phagocytic response to clear Aβ deposits although they mainly exist in an "activated" state. Oligomeric Aβ (oAβ), a recent target in the pathogenesis of AD, can induce more potent neurotoxicity when compared with fibrillar Aβ (fAβ). However, the role of the different Aβ forms in microglial phagocytosis, induction of inflammation and oxidation, and subsequent regulation of phagocytic receptor system, remain unclear.

Results: We demonstrated that Aβ(1-42) fibrils, not Aβ(1-42) oligomers, increased the microglial phagocytosis. Intriguingly, the pretreatment of microglia with oAβ(1-42) not only attenuated fAβ(1-42)-triggered classical phagocytic response to fluorescent microspheres but also significantly inhibited phagocytosis of fluorescent labeled fAβ(1-42). Compared with the fAβ(1-42) treatment, the oAβ(1-42) treatment resulted in a rapid and transient increase in interleukin 1β (IL-1β) level and produced higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and intracellular superoxide anion (SOA). The further results demonstrated that microglial phagocytosis was negatively correlated with inflammatory mediators in this process and that the capacity of phagocytosis in fAβ(1-42)-induced microglia was decreased by IL-1β, lippolysaccharide (LPS) and tert-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BHP). The decreased phagocytosis could be relieved by pyrrolidone dithiocarbamate (PDTC), a nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) inhibitor, and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), a free radical scavenger. These results suggest that the oAβ-impaired phagocytosis is mediated through inflammation and oxidative stress-mediated mechanism in microglial cells. Furthermore, oAβ(1-42) stimulation reduced the mRNA expression of CD36, integrin β1 (Itgb1), and Ig receptor FcγRIII, and significantly increased that of formyl peptide receptor 2 (FPR2) and scavenger receptor class B1 (SRB1), compared with the basal level. Interestingly, the pre-stimulation with oAβ(1-42) or the inflammatory and oxidative milieu (IL-1β, LPS or t-BHP) significantly downregulated the fAβ(1-42)-induced mRNA over-expression of CD36, CD47 and Itgb1 receptors in microglial cells.

Conclusion: These results imply that Aβ oligomers induce a potent inflammatory response and subsequently disturb microglial phagocytosis and clearance of Aβ fibrils, thereby contributing to an initial neurodegenerative characteristic of AD. Antiinflammatory and antioxidative therapies may indeed prove beneficial to delay the progression of AD.