Live imaging of the innate immune response in neonates reveals differential TLR2 dependent activation patterns in sterile inflammation and infection

Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Oct;65:312-327. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.05.020. Epub 2017 Jun 1.


Activation of microglial cells in response to brain injury and/or immune stimuli is associated with a marked induction of Toll-like receptors (TLRs). While in adult brain, the contribution of individual TLRs, including TLR2, in pathophysiological cascades has been well established, their role and spatial and temporal induction patterns in immature brain are far less understood. To examine whether infectious stimuli and sterile inflammatory stimuli trigger distinct TLR2-mediated innate immune responses, we used three models in postnatal day 9 (P9) mice, a model of infection induced by systemic endotoxin injection and two models of sterile inflammation, intra-cortical IL-1β injection and transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO). We took advantage of a transgenic mouse model bearing the dual reporter system luciferase/GFP under transcriptional control of a murine TLR2 promoter (TLR2-luc-GFP) to visualize the TLR2 response in the living neonatal brain and then determined neuroinflammation, microglial activation and leukocyte infiltration. We show that in physiological postnatal brain development the in vivo TLR2-luc signal undergoes a marked ∼30-fold decline and temporal-spatial changes during the second and third postnatal weeks. We then show that while endotoxin robustly induces the in vivo TLR2-luc signal in the living brain and increases levels of several inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, the in vivo TLR2-luc signal is reduced after both IL-1β and tMCAO and the inflammatory response is muted. Immunofluorescence revealed that microglial cells are the predominant source of TLR2 production during postnatal brain development and in all three neonatal models studied. Flow cytometry revealed developmental changes in CD11b+/CD45+ and CD11b+/Ly6C+ cell populations, involvement of cells of the monocyte lineage, but lack of Ly6G+ neutrophils or CD3+ cells in acutely injured neonatal brains. Cumulatively, our results suggest distinct TLR2 induction patterns following PAMP and DAMP - mediated inflammation in immature brain.

Keywords: Biophotonic/bioluminescence imaging; IL-1β; LPS; Microglia; Neonate; TLR2; tMCAO.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / physiology*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Tlr2 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptors