Background: Inflammatory injury plays a critical role in intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH)-induced neurological deficits; however, the signaling pathways are not apparent by which the upstream cellular events trigger innate immune and inflammatory responses that contribute to neurological impairments. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) plays a role in inflammatory damage caused by brain disorders.
Methods: In this study, we investigate the role of TLR4 signaling in ICH-induced inflammation. In the ICH model, a significant upregulation of TLR4 expression in reactive microglia has been demonstrated using real-time RT-PCR. Activation of microglia was detected by immunohistochemistry, cytokines were measured by ELISA, MyD88, TRIF and NF-κB were measured by Western blot and EMSA, animal behavior was evaluated by animal behavioristics.
Results: Compared to WT mice, TLR4(-/-) mice had restrained ICH-induced brain damage showing in reduced cerebral edema and lower neurological deficit scores. Quantification of cytokines including IL-6, TNF-α and IL-1β and assessment of macrophage infiltration in perihematoma tissues from TLR4(-/-), MyD88(-/-) and TRIF(-/-) mice showed attenuated inflammatory damage after ICH. TLR4(-/-) mice also exhibited reduced MyD88 and TRIF expression which was accompanied by decreased NF-κB activity. This suggests that after ICH both MyD88 and TRIF pathways might be involved in TLR4-mediated inflammatory injury possibly via NF-κB activation. Exogenous hemin administration significantly increased TLR4 expression and microglial activation in cultures and also exacerbated brain injury in WT mice but not in TLR4(-/-) mice. Anti-TLR4 antibody administration suppressed hemin-induced microglial activation in cultures and in the mice model of ICH.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that heme potentiates microglial activation via TLR4, in turn inducing NF-κB activation via the MyD88/TRIF signaling pathway, and ultimately increasing cytokine expression and inflammatory injury in ICH. Targeting TLR4 signaling may be a promising therapeutic strategy for ICH.