Background: Systemic inflammation impairs outcome in stroke patients and experimental animals via mechanisms which are poorly understood. Circulating inflammatory mediators can activate cerebrovascular endothelium or glial cells in the brain and impact on ischaemic brain injury. One of the most serious early clinical complications of cerebral ischaemia is brain oedema, which compromises survival in the first 24-48 h. It is not understood whether systemic inflammatory challenges impair outcome after stroke by increasing brain injury only or whether they have direct effects on brain oedema, cerebrovascular inflammation and blood-brain barrier damage.
Methods: We used two different systemic inflammatory stimuli, acute endotoxin treatment and anaphylaxis to study mechanisms of brain injury after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). Ischaemic brain injury, blood-brain barrier damage and oedema were analysed by histological techniques. Systemic cytokine responses and inflammatory changes in the brain were analysed by cytometric bead array, immunofluorescence, in situ hibridization and quantitative real-time PCR.
Results: Systemic inflammatory challenges profoundly impaired survival in the first 24 h after experimental stroke in mice, independently of an increase in infarct size. Systemic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) dose-dependently increased mortality (50-100%) minutes to hours after cerebral ischaemia. Acute anaphylactic challenge in ovalbumin-sensitised mice affected stroke more seriously when induced via intraperitoneal administration compared to intravenous. Both LPS and anaphylaxis induced inflammatory changes in the blood and in the brain prior to experimental stroke. Plasma cytokine levels were significantly higher after LPS, while increased IL-10 levels were seen after anaphylaxis. After MCAo, both LPS and anaphylaxis increased microglial interleukin-1α (IL-1α) expression and blood-brain barrier breakdown. LPS caused marked granulocyte recruitment throughout the ipsilateral hemisphere. To investigate whether reduction of ischaemic damage can improve outcome in systemic inflammation, controlled hypothermia was performed. Hypothermia reduced infarct size in all treatment groups and moderately improved survival, but failed to reduce excess oedema formation after anaphylaxis and LPS-induced neuroinflammation.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that systemic inflammatory conditions induce cerebrovascular inflammation via diverse mechanisms. Increased brain inflammation, blood-brain barrier injury and brain oedema formation can be major contributors to impaired outcome in mice after experimental stroke with systemic inflammatory stimuli, independently of infarct size.