Antimicrobial immunity impedes CNS vascular repair following brain injury

Nat Immunol. 2021 Oct;22(10):1280-1293. doi: 10.1038/s41590-021-01012-1. Epub 2021 Sep 23.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cerebrovascular injury are leading causes of disability and mortality worldwide. Systemic infections often accompany these disorders and can worsen outcomes. Recovery after brain injury depends on innate immunity, but the effect of infections on this process is not well understood. Here, we demonstrate that systemically introduced microorganisms and microbial products interfered with meningeal vascular repair after TBI in a type I interferon (IFN-I)-dependent manner, with sequential infections promoting chronic disrepair. Mechanistically, we discovered that MDA5-dependent detection of an arenavirus encountered after TBI disrupted pro-angiogenic myeloid cell programming via induction of IFN-I signaling. Systemic viral infection similarly blocked restorative angiogenesis in the brain parenchyma after intracranial hemorrhage, leading to chronic IFN-I signaling, blood-brain barrier leakage and a failure to restore cognitive-motor function. Our findings reveal a common immunological mechanism by which systemic infections deviate reparative programming after central nervous system injury and offer a new therapeutic target to improve recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / immunology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / immunology
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Interferon Type I