Exploring the Role of Chemokine Receptor 6 (Ccr6) in the BXD Mouse Model of Gulf War Illness

Front Neurosci. 2020 Aug 14:14:818. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.00818. eCollection 2020.


Gulf War illness (GWI) is a chronic and multi-symptomatic disorder with persistent neuroimmune symptomatology. Chemokine receptor 6 (CCR6) has been shown to be involved in several inflammation disorders in humans. However, the causative relationship between CCR6 and neuroinflammation in GWI has not yet been investigated. By using RNA-seq data of prefrontal cortex (PFC) from 31 C57BL/6J X DBA/2J (BXD) recombinant inbred (RI) mouse strains and their parental strains under three chemical treatment groups - saline control (CTL), diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP), and corticosterone combined with diisopropylfluorophosphate (CORT+DFP), we identified Ccr6 as a candidate gene underlying individual differences in susceptibility to GWI. The Ccr6 gene is cis-regulated and its expression is significantly correlated with CORT+DFP treatment. Its mean transcript abundance in PFC of BXD mice decreased 1.6-fold (p < 0.0001) in the CORT+DFP group. The response of Ccr6 to CORT+DFP is also significantly different (p < 0.0001) between the parental strains, suggesting Ccr6 is affected by both host genetic background and chemical treatments. Pearson product-moment correlation analysis revealed 1473 Ccr6-correlated genes (p < 0.05). Enrichment of these genes was seen in the immune, inflammation, cytokine, and neurological related categories. In addition, we also found five central nervous system-related phenotypes and fecal corticosterone concentration have significant correlation (p < 0.05) with expression of Ccr6 in the PFC. We further established a protein-protein interaction subnetwork for the Ccr6-correlated genes, which provides an insight on the interaction of G protein-coupled receptors, kallikrein-kinin system and neuroactive ligand-receptors. This analysis likely defines the heterogeneity and complexity of GWI. Therefore, our results suggest that Ccr6 is one of promising GWI biomarkers.

Keywords: BXD strain; CORT; Ccr6; DFP; GWI; RNA-seq; neuroinflammation.