The pathophysiology of delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) is incompletely understood. Intrathecal activation of inflammatory immune cells is suspected to play a major role for the induction of DCI. The aim of this study is to identify immune cell subsets and mediators involved in the pathogenesis of DCI. We prospectively collected blood and CSF from 25 patients with aSAH at early and late time points. We performed multicolor flow cytometry of peripheral blood and CSF, analyzing immune cell activation and pro-inflammatory cyto- and chemokines. In addition to the primary immune analysis, we retrospectively analyzed immune cell dynamics in the CSF of all our SAH patients. Our results show an increased monocyte infiltration secondary to aneurysm rupture in patients with DCI. Infiltrating monocytes are defined by a non-classical (CD14dim CD16+) phenotype at early stages. The infiltration is most likely triggered by the intrathecal immune activation. Here, high levels of pro-inflammatory chemokines, such as CXCL1, CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11, are detected. The intrathecal cellular activation profile of monocytes was defined by upregulation of CD163 and CD86 on monocytes and a presumable later differentiation into antigen-presenting plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) and hemosiderophages. Peripheral immune activation was reflected by CD69 upregulation on T cells. Analysis of DCI prevalence, Hunt and Hess grade, and clinical outcome correlated with the degree of immune activation. We demonstrate that monocytes and T cells are activated intrathecally after aSAH and mediate a local inflammatory response which is presumably driven by chemokines. Our data shows that the distinct pattern of immune activation correlates with the prevalence of DCI, indicating a pathophysiological connection to the incidence of vasospasm.
Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; DCI; Delayed cerebral ischemia; Immune profile; Immunology; Subarachnoid hemorrhage; Vasospasm.