NLRP3 Depletion Fails to Mitigate Inflammation but Restores Diminished Phagocytosis in BV-2 Cells After In Vitro Hypoxia

Mol Neurobiol. 2020 Jun;57(6):2588-2599. doi: 10.1007/s12035-020-01909-2. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Post-hypoxic/ischemic neuroinflammation is selectively driven by sterile inflammation, which implies the interplay of brain-intrinsic immune cells with other neural cells and immigrated peripheral immune cells. The resultant inflammatory cascade evolves extra- and intracellular pathogen and danger-associated receptors. The latter interacts with multiprotein complexes termed inflammasomes. The NLRP3 inflammasome is one of the best-described inflammasomes. However, its impact on post-ischemic neuroinflammation and its role in neuroprotection after ischemic stroke are still under debate. Microglial cells are known to be the main source of neuroinflammation; hence, we depleted NLRP3 in BV-2 microglial cells using shRNA to investigate its role in IL-1β maturation and phagocytosis after hypoxia (oxygen-glucose-deprivation (OGD)). We also examined the expression profiles of other inflammasomes (NLRC4, AIM2, ASC) and caspase-1 activity after OGD. OGD triggered caspase-1 activity and increased IL-1β secretion in BV-2 cells with no alteration after NLRP3 depletion. The expression of the AIM2 inflammasome was significantly higher after OGD in NLRP3-depleted cells, whereas NLRC4 was unaltered in all groups. Interestingly, OGD induced a complete inactivation of phagocytic activity in wild-type cells, while in NLRP3-depleted BV-2, this inactivity was restored after hypoxia. Our findings indicate a minor role of NLRP3 in the inflammatory response after hypoxic/ischemic stimulus. However, NLRP3 seems to play a pivotal role in the regulation of post-ischemic phagocytosis. This might be a prerequisite for the putative neuroprotective effect.

Keywords: AIM2; Hypoxia; Inflammasomes; NLRC4; NLRP3; Neuroinflammation; OGD; Phagocytosis.