Activated microglia can suppress neurite outgrowth and synapse recovery in the acute stage following traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, the underlying mechanism has not been clearly elucidated. Exosomes derived from microglia have been reported to play a critical role in microglia-neuron interaction in healthy and pathological brains. Here, we aimed to investigate the role of microglia-derived exosomes in regulating neurite outgrowth and synapse recovery following TBI. In our study, exosomes derived from microglia were co-cultured with stretch-injured neurons in vitro and intravenously injected into mice that underwent fluid percussion injury (FPI) by tail vein injection in vivo. The results showed that microglia-derived exosomes could be absorbed by neurons in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, exosomes derived from stretch-injured microglia decreased the protein levels of GAP43, PSD-95, GluR1, and Synaptophysin and dendritic complexity in stretch-injured neurons in vitro, and reduced GAP43+ NEUN cell percentage and apical dendritic spine density in the pericontusion region in vivo. Motor coordination was also impaired in mice treated with stretch-injured microglia-derived exosomes after FPI. A microRNA microarray showed that the level of miR-5121 was decreased most greatly in exosomes derived from stretch-injured microglia. Overexpression of miR-5121 in stretch-injured microglia-derived exosomes partly reversed the suppression of neurite outgrowth and synapse recovery of neurons both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, motor coordination in miR-5121 overexpressed exosomes treated mice was significantly improved after FPI. Following mechanistic study demonstrated that miR-5121 might promote neurite outgrowth and synapse recovery by directly targeting RGMa. In conclusion, our finding revealed a novel exosome-mediated mechanism of microglia-neuron interaction that suppressed neurite outgrowth and synapse recovery of neurons following TBI.
Keywords: Exosomes; microRNA; microglia; neuron; traumatic brain injury.