Background: Exposure of the developing brain to immune mediators, including antibodies, is postulated to increase risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative disease. It has been suggested that immunoglobulin G-immune complexes (IgG-IC) activate Fc gamma receptors (FcγR) expressed on neurons to modify signaling events in these cells. However, testing this hypothesis is hindered by a paucity of data regarding neuronal FcγR expression and function.
Methods: FcγR transcript expression in the hippocampus, cortex, and cerebellum of neonatal male and female rats was investigated ex vivo and in mixed cultures of primary hippocampal and cortical neurons and astrocytes using quantitative PCR analyses. Expression at the protein level in mixed cultures of primary hippocampal and cortical neurons and astrocytes was determined by immunocytochemistry, western blotting, proteotype analysis, and flow cytometry. The functionality of these receptors was assessed by measuring changes in intracellular calcium levels, Erk phosphorylation, and IgG internalization following stimulation with IgG-immune complexes.
Results: FcgrIa, FcgrIIa, FcgrIIb, FcgrIIIa, and Fcgrt transcripts were detectable in the cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum at postnatal days 1 and 7. These transcripts were also present in primary hippocampal and cortical cell cultures, where their expression was modulated by IFNγ. Expression of FcγRIa, FcγRIIb, and FcγRIIIa, but not FcγRIIa or FcRn proteins, was confirmed in cultured hippocampal and cortical neurons and astrocytes at the single cell level. A subpopulation of these cells co-expressed the activating FcγRIa and the inhibitory FcγRIIb. Functional analyses demonstrated that exposure of hippocampal and cortical cell cultures to IgG-IC increases intracellular calcium and Erk phosphorylation and triggers FcγR-mediated internalization of IgG.
Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that developing neurons and astrocytes in the hippocampus and the cortex express signaling competent FcγR. These findings suggest that IgG antibodies may influence normal neurodevelopment or function via direct interactions with FcγR on non-immune cells in the brain.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Cortex; Cross-linking; Fc gamma receptor (FcγR); Hippocampus; IgG immune complex (IgG-IC); Neurodevelopment; Neurons.