TNF deficiency causes alterations in the spatial organization of neurogenic zones and alters the number of microglia and neurons in the cerebral cortex

Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Nov:82:279-297. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.08.195. Epub 2019 Sep 7.


Background: Although tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors are used to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, there is little information about how long-term inhibition of TNF affects the homeostatic functions that TNF maintains in the intact CNS.

Materials and methods: To assess whether developmental TNF deficiency causes alterations in the naïve CNS, we estimated the number of proliferating cells, microglia, and neurons in the developing neocortex of E13.5, P7 and adult TNF knock out (TNF-/-) mice and wildtype (WT) littermates. We also measured changes in gene and protein expression and monoamine levels in adult WT and TNF-/- mice. To evaluate long-term effects of TNF inhibitors, we treated healthy adult C57BL/6 mice with either saline, the selective soluble TNF inhibitor XPro1595, or the nonselective TNF inhibitor etanercept. We estimated changes in cell number and protein expression after two months of treatment. We assessed the effects of TNF deficiency on cognition by testing adult WT and TNF-/- mice and mice treated with saline, XPro1595, or etanercept with specific behavioral tasks.

Results: TNF deficiency decreased the number of proliferating cells and microglia and increased the number of neurons. At the same time, TNF deficiency decreased the expression of WNT signaling-related proteins, specifically Collagen Triple Helix Repeat Containing 1 (CTHRC1) and Frizzled receptor 6 (FZD6). In contrast to XPro1595, long-term inhibition of TNF with etanercept in adult C57BL/6 mice decreased the number of BrdU+ cells in the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus. Etanercept, but not XPro1595, also impaired spatial learning and memory in the Barnes maze memory test.

Conclusion: TNF deficiency impacts the organization of neurogenic zones and alters the cell composition in brain. Long-term inhibition of TNF with the nonselective TNF inhibitor etanercept, but not the soluble TNF inhibitor XPro1595, decreases neurogenesis in the adult mouse hippocampus and impairs learning and memory after two months of treatment.

Keywords: Cytokines; Neurogenesis; TNF inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Etanercept / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / deficiency*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway


  • Tnf protein, mouse
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • XENP 1595
  • Etanercept