Selective NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor reduces neuroinflammation and improves long-term neurological outcomes in a murine model of traumatic brain injury

Neurobiol Dis. 2018 Sep;117:15-27. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2018.05.016. Epub 2018 May 30.


The nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome-mediated inflammatory response has emerged as a prominent contributor to the pathophysiological processes of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recently, a potent, selective, small-molecule NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor, MCC950, was described. Here, we investigated the effect of MCC950 on inflammatory brain injury and long-term neurological outcomes in a mouse model of TBI. Male C57/BL6 mice were subjected to TBI using the controlled cortical impact injury (CCI) system. Western blotting, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence assays were utilized to analyze post-traumatic NLRP3 inflammasome expression and determine its cellular source. We found that NLRP3 inflammasome expression was significantly increased in the peri-contusional cortex and that microglia were the primary source of this expression. The effects of MCC950 on mice with TBI were then determined using post-assessments including analyses of neurological deficits, brain water content, traumatic lesion volume, neuroinflammation, blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity, and cell death. MCC950 treatment resulted in a better neurological outcome after TBI by alleviating brain edema, reducing lesion volume, and improving long-term motor and cognitive functions. The therapeutic window for MCC950 against TBI was as long as 6 h. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effect of MCC950 was associated with reduced microglial activation, leukocyte recruitment, and pro-inflammatory cytokine production. In addition, MCC950 preserved BBB integrity, alleviated TBI-induced loss of tight junction proteins, and attenuated cell death. Notably, the efficacy of MCC950 was abolished in microglia-depleted mice. These results indicate that microglia-derived NLRP3 inflammasome may be primarily involved in the inflammatory response to TBI, and specific NLRP3 inflammasome inhibition using MCC950 may be a promising therapeutic approach for patients with TBI.

Keywords: Interleukin-1β; MCC950; Microglia; NLRP3 inflammasome; Neuroinflammation; Traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings / pharmacology
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings / therapeutic use*
  • Inflammasomes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Inflammasomes / biosynthesis
  • Inflammasomes / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism*
  • Random Allocation
  • Sulfones / pharmacology
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings
  • Inflammasomes
  • MCC-950
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Nlrp3 protein, mouse
  • Sulfones