Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) is a common postoperative complication that is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. However, the neuropathogenesis of this complication remains largely unknown. Neuroinflammation, in particular hippocampal inflammation, contributes to POCD. Recently, increasing evidence has supported the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the regulation of neuroinflammation in human neurological disorders. In the present study, we investigated the role of miR-146a, a key regulator of the innate immune response, in surgery-induced hippocampal inflammation and cognitive impairment. The expression of miR-146a was measured in BV-2 microglial cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and hippocampal tissues of mice with POCD. Loss of function and overexpression studies were performed via transfection with miR-146a mimic/inhibitor in cultured BV-2 cell lines and intrahippocampal injection of miR-146a agomir/antagomir before surgery/anesthesia to identify the role of miR-146a in neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment. QPCR, Western blot and ELISA were used to determine the expression levels of downstream adaptor proteins and proinflammatory cytokines. Immunofluorescence staining was applied to evaluate the activation of microglia. Increased expression of miR-146a was observed in BV-2 microglial cells stimulated with LPS and hippocampal tissues of mice with POCD. Modulation of miR-146a expression via transfection of microglia with miR-146a mimic or inhibitor regulated the mRNA and protein expression levels of downstream targets of miR-146a (IRAK1 and TRAF6) as well as the release of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6). In addition, overexpression of miR-146a attenuated hippocampus-dependent learning and memory impairment in mice with POCD, which was accompanied by decreased expression of the IRAK1/TRAF6/nuclear factor (NF)-κB pathway and downregulation of microglial activation in the hippocampus. Conversely, knockdown of miR-146a expression may exacerbate hippocampus-dependent learning and memory deficiency and hippocampal inflammation in mice with POCD. Collectively, our findings demonstrate the important role of miR-146a in the neuropathogenesis of POCD and suggest that miR-146a may be a potential therapeutic target for POCD.
Keywords: IRAK1; Microglial activation; Postoperative cognitive dysfunction; Pro-inflammatory factors; TRAF6; miR-146a.
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