Chronic hM3Dq signaling in microglia ameliorates neuroinflammation in male mice

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Aug:88:791-801. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.041. Epub 2020 May 17.


Microglia express muscarinic G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that sense cholinergic activity and are activated by acetylcholine to potentially regulate microglial functions. Knowledge about how distinct types of muscarinic GPCR signaling regulate microglia function in vivo is still poor, partly due to the fact that some of these receptors are also present in astrocytes and neurons. We generated mice expressing the hM3Dq Designer Receptor Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD) selectively in microglia to investigate the role of muscarinic M3Gq-linked signaling. We show that activation of hM3Dq using clozapine N-oxide (CNO) elevated intracellular calcium levels and increased phagocytosis of FluoSpheres by microglia in vitro. Interestingly, whereas acute treatment with CNO increased synthesis of cytokine mRNA, chronic treatment attenuated LPS-induced cytokine mRNA changes in the brain. No effect of CNO on cytokine expression was observed in DREADD-negative mice. Interestingly, CNO activation of M3Dq in microglia was able to attenuate LPS-mediated decrease in social interactions. These results suggest that chronic activation of M3 muscarinic receptors (the hM3Dq progenitor) in microglia, and potentially other Gq-coupled GPCRs, can trigger an inflammatory-like response that preconditions microglia to decrease their response to further immunological challenges. Our results indicate that hM3Dq can be a useful tool to modulate neuroinflammation and study microglial immunological memory in vivo, which may be applicable for manipulations of neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.

Keywords: Cytokine; DREADD; GPCR; Gq; Microglia; Muscarinic receptor; Sickness behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine
  • Animals
  • Clozapine* / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microglia*
  • Neurons
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Clozapine
  • Acetylcholine