Pleiotrophin regulates microglia-mediated neuroinflammation

J Neuroinflammation. 2017 Mar 4;14(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12974-017-0823-8.


Background: Pleiotrophin (PTN) is a cytokine found highly upregulated in the brain in different disorders characterized by overt neuroinflammation such as neurodegenerative diseases, drug addiction, traumatic injury, and ischemia. In the present work, we have explored whether PTN modulates neuroinflammation and if Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), crucial in the initiation of an immune response, is involved.

Methods: In immunohistochemistry assays, we studied lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 7.5 mg/kg i.p.)-induced changes in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP, astrocyte marker) and ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule 1 (Iba1, microglia marker) expression in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and striatum of mice with transgenic PTN overexpression in the brain (PTN-Tg) and in wild-type (WT) mice. Cytokine protein levels were assessed in the PFC by X-MAP technology. The influence of TLR4 signaling in LPS effects in both genotypes was assessed by pretreatment with the TLR4 antagonist (TAK-242, 3.0 mg/kg i.p.). Murine BV2 microglial cells were treated with PTN (0.5 μg/ml) and LPS (1.0 μg/ml) and assessed for the release of nitric oxide (NO).

Results: We found that LPS-induced microglial activation is significantly increased in the PFC of PTN-Tg mice compared to that of WT mice. The levels of TNF-α, IL-6, and MCP-1 in response to LPS were significantly increased in the PFC of PTN-Tg mice compared to that of WT mice. Pretreatment with TAK-242 efficiently blocked increases in cytokine contents in a similar manner in both genotypes. Concomitant incubation of BV2 cells with LPS and PTN significantly potentiated the production of NO compared to cells only treated with LPS.

Conclusions: Our findings identify for the first time that PTN is a novel and potent regulator of neuroinflammation. Pleiotrophin potentiates LPS-stimulated microglia activation. Our results suggest that regulation of the PTN signaling pathways may constitute new therapeutic opportunities particularly in those neurological disorders characterized by increased PTN cerebral levels and neuroinflammation.

Keywords: Microglia activation; Microgliosis; Midkine; Neuroimmune response; Neuroinflammation; Pleiotrophin; TLR4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Encephalitis / chemically induced
  • Encephalitis / genetics
  • Encephalitis / pathology*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Aif1 protein, mouse
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Sulfonamides
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • ethyl 6-(N-(2-chloro-4-fluorophenyl)sulfamoyl)cyclohex-1-ene-1-carboxylate
  • pleiotrophin
  • Nitric Oxide