Local cerebral hypoperfusion causes ischemic stroke while driving multiple cell-specific responses including inflammation, glutamate-induced neurotoxicity mediated via NMDAR, edema formation and angiogenesis. Despite the relevance of these pathophysiological mechanisms for disease progression and outcome, molecular determinants controlling the onset of these processes are only partially understood. In this context, our study intended to investigate the functional role of EphB2, a receptor tyrosine kinase that is crucial for synapse function and binds to membrane-associated ephrin-B ligands.Cerebral ischemia was induced in Ephb2-/- mice by transient middle cerebral artery occlusion followed by different times (6, 12, 24 and 48 h) of reperfusion. Histological, neurofunctional and transcriptome analyses indicated an increase in EphB2 phosphorylation under these conditions and attenuated progression of stroke in Ephb2-/- mice. Moreover, while infiltration of microglia/macrophages and astrocytes into the peri-infarct region was not altered, expression of the pro-inflammatory mediators MCP-1 and IL-6 was decreased in these mice. In vitro analyses indicated that binding of EphB2 to astrocytic ephrin-B ligands stimulates NF-κB-mediated cytokine expression via the MAPK pathway. Further magnetic resonance imaging of the Ephb2-/- ischemic brain revealed a lower level of cytotoxic edema formation within 6 h upon onset of reperfusion. On the mechanistic level, absence of neuronal EphB2 decreased the mitochondrial Ca2+ load upon specific activation of NMDAR but not during synaptic activity. Furthermore, neuron-specific loss of ephrin-B2 reduced the extent of cerebral tissue damage in the acute phase of ischemic stroke.Collectively, EphB2 may promote the immediate response to an ischemia-reperfusion event in the central nervous system by (i) pro-inflammatory activation of astrocytes via ephrin-B-dependent signaling and (ii) amplification of NMDA-evoked neuronal excitotoxicity.
Keywords: EphB2; Ephrin-B2; Excitotoxicity; Inflammation; Ischemic stroke; NMDA.