Single-cell transcriptomics of human traumatic brain injury reveals activation of endogenous retroviruses in oligodendroglia

Cell Rep. 2023 Nov 28;42(11):113395. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113395. Epub 2023 Nov 14.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of chronic brain impairment and results in a robust, but poorly understood, neuroinflammatory response that contributes to the long-term pathology. We used single-nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) to study transcriptomic changes in different cell populations in human brain tissue obtained acutely after severe, life-threatening TBI. This revealed a unique transcriptional response in oligodendrocyte precursors and mature oligodendrocytes, including the activation of a robust innate immune response, indicating an important role for oligodendroglia in the initiation of neuroinflammation. The activation of an innate immune response correlated with transcriptional upregulation of endogenous retroviruses in oligodendroglia. This observation was causally linked in vitro using human glial progenitors, implicating these ancient viral sequences in human neuroinflammation. In summary, this work provides insight into the initiating events of the neuroinflammatory response in TBI, which has therapeutic implications.

Keywords: CP: Neuroscience; endogenous retroviruses; interferon response; neuroinflammation; oligodendroglia; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries* / pathology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic* / pathology
  • Endogenous Retroviruses* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology
  • Transcriptome / genetics