Silencing IFN-γ binding/signaling in astrocytes versus microglia leads to opposite effects on central nervous system autoimmunity

J Immunol. 2015 May 1;194(9):4251-64. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1303321. Epub 2015 Mar 20.


IFN-γ, the hallmark cytokine of Th1 cells, plays an important role in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis. Thus far, the role of IFN-γ in EAE has been largely studied through its effects on immune cells, whereas much less is known about its effects on CNS cells, especially in vivo. In this study, we dissected the in vivo effects and mechanisms of IFN-γ binding/signaling in astrocytes and microglia, and found that IFN-γ signaling in these cell types has opposite effects in EAE pathogenesis. Silencing IFN-γ binding/signaling in astrocytes alleviated EAE, whereas in microglia, and likely in some infiltrating macrophages, it increased disease severity. Silencing IFN-γ signaling in astrocytes resulted in diminished expression of chemokines and fewer inflammatory cells infiltrating into the CNS, whereas blocking IFN-γ binding/signaling in microglia, probably infiltrating macrophages as well, increased disease severity through augmented activation and proliferation of microglia. Further, blocking IFN-γ binding/signaling in astrocytes alleviated both Th1- and Th17-mediated adoptive EAE, indicating an important role for IFN-γ signaling in astrocytes in autoimmune CNS inflammation. Thus, our study defines novel mechanisms of action of IFN-γ in EAE pathogenesis, and also highlights an opportunity for development of multiple sclerosis therapies directed at CNS cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Autoimmunity / genetics*
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Chemokines / genetics
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / genetics
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Interferon / genetics
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Th17 Cells / immunology
  • Th17 Cells / metabolism


  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Interferon
  • Interferon-gamma