Early posttraumatic CSF1R inhibition via PLX3397 leads to time- and sex-dependent effects on inflammation and neuronal maintenance after traumatic brain injury in mice

Brain Behav Immun. 2022 Nov;106:49-66. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2022.07.164. Epub 2022 Aug 3.


Background: There is a need for early therapeutic interventions after traumatic brain injury (TBI) to prevent neurodegeneration. Microglia/macrophage (M/M) depletion and repopulation after treatment with colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) inhibitors reduces neurodegeneration. The present study investigates short- and long-term consequences after CSF1R inhibition during the early phase after TBI.

Methods: Sex-matched mice were subjected to TBI and CSF1R inhibition by PLX3397 for 5 days and sacrificed at 5 or 30 days post injury (dpi). Neurological deficits were monitored and brain tissues were examined for histo- and molecular pathological markers. RNAseq was performed with 30 dpi TBI samples.

Results: At 5 dpi, CSF1R inhibition attenuated the TBI-induced perilesional M/M increase and associated gene expressions by up to 50%. M/M attenuation did not affect structural brain damage at this time-point, impaired hematoma clearance, and had no effect on IL-1β expression. At 30 dpi, following drug discontinuation at 5 dpi and M/M repopulation, CSF1R inhibition attenuated brain tissue loss regardless of sex, as well as hippocampal atrophy and thalamic neuronal loss in male mice. Selected gene markers of brain inflammation and apoptosis were reduced in males but increased in females after early CSF1R inhibition as compared to corresponding TBI vehicle groups. Neurological outcome in behaving mice was almost not affected. RNAseq and gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) of injured brains at 30 dpi revealed more genes associated with dendritic spines and synapse function after early CSF1R inhibition as compared to vehicle, suggesting improved neuronal maintenance and recovery. In TBI vehicle mice, GSEA showed high oxidative phosphorylation, oxidoreductase activity and ribosomal biogenesis suggesting oxidative stress and increased abundance of metabolically highly active cells. More genes associated with immune processes and phagocytosis in PLX3397 treated females vs males, suggesting sex-specific differences in response to early CSF1R inhibition after TBI.

Conclusions: M/M attenuation after CSF1R inhibition via PLX3397 during the early phase of TBI reduces long-term brain tissue loss, improves neuronal maintenance and fosters synapse recovery. Overall effects were not sex-specific but there is evidence that male mice benefit more than female mice.

Keywords: Colony stimulating factor 1 receptor; Hematoma; Inflammation; Microglia; Phagocytosis; RNAseq; Sex; Synapse; Therapy; Traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aminopyridines
  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / pharmacology
  • Pyrroles
  • Receptors, Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism
  • Receptors, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism


  • Aminopyridines
  • Csf1r protein, mouse
  • Pyrroles
  • Receptors, Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Receptors, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • pexidartinib
  • Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Oxidoreductases