Neuroinflammation contributes to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progression. TLR4, a transmembrane protein that plays a central role in activation of the innate immune system, has been shown to induce microglial activation in ALS models. TLR4 is up-regulated in the spinal cords of hSOD1G93A mice. We aimed to examine the effects of specific TLR4 inhibition on disease progression and survival in the hSOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. Immunologic effect of TLR4 inhibition in vitro was measured by the effect of TAK-242 treatment on LPS-induced splenocytes proliferation. hSOD1G93A transgenic mice were treated with TAK-242, a selective TLR4 inhibitor, or vehicle. Survival, body weight, and motor behavior were monitored. To evaluate in vivo immunologic modifications associated with TAK-242 treatment, we measured serum IL-1β in the plasma, as well as IL-1β and TNF-α mRNAs in the spinal cord in wild-type mice and in TAK-242-treated and vehicle-treated early symptomatic hSOD1G93A mice. Immunohistochemical analysis of motor neurons, astrocytes, and microglial reactivity in the spinal cords were performed on symptomatic (100 days old) TAK-242-treated and vehicle-treated hSOD1G93A mice. In vitro, splenocytes taken from 100 days old hSOD1G93A mice showed significantly increased proliferation when exposed to LPS (p = 0.0002), a phenomenon that was reduced by TAK-242 (p = 0.0179). TAK-242 treatment did not attenuate body weight loss or significantly affect survival. However, TAK-242-treated hSOD1G93A mice showed temporary clinical delay in disease progression evident in the ladder test and hindlimb reflex measurements. Plasma IL-1β levels were significantly reduced in TAK-242-treated compared to vehicle-treated hSOD1G93A mice (p = 0.0023). TAK-242 treatment reduced spinal cord astrogliosis and microglial activation and significantly attenuated spinal cord motor neuron loss at early disease stage (p = 0.0259). Compared to wild-type animals, both IL-1β and TNF-α mRNAs were significantly upregulated in the spinal cords of hSOD1G93A mice. Spinal cord analysis in TAK-242-treated hSOD1G93A mice revealed significant attenuation of TNF-α mRNA (p = 0.0431), but no change in IL-1β mRNA. TLR4 inhibition delayed disease progression, attenuated spinal cord astroglial and microglial reaction, and reduced spinal motor neuron loss in the ALS hSOD1G93A mouse model. However, this effect did not result in increased survival. To our knowledge, this is the first report on TAK-242 treatment in a neurodegenerative disease model. Further studies are warranted to assess TLR4 as a therapeutic target in ALS.
Keywords: ALS; SOD1 mice; TAK-242; TLR4; animal model; innate immune system; neuroinflammation.