Microglia are activated following cerebral ischemia and increase their production of the neuro- and immunomodulatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF). To address the function of TNF from this cellular source in focal cerebral ischemia we used TNF conditional knock out mice (LysMcreTNF fl/fl) in which the TNF gene was deleted in cells of the myeloid lineage, including microglia. The deletion reduced secreted TNF levels in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated cultured primary microglia by ∼93%. Furthermore, phosphorylated-ERK/ERK ratios were significantly decreased in naïve LysMcreTNF fl/fl mice demonstrating altered ERK signal transduction. Micro-PET using 18 [F]-fluorodeoxyglucose immediately after focal cerebral ischemia showed increased glucose uptake in LysMcreTNF fl/fl mice, representing significant metabolic changes, that translated into increased infarct volumes at 24 hours and 5 days compared to littermates (TNFfl/fl). In naïve LysMcreTNF fl/fl mice cytokine levels were low and comparable to littermates. At 6 hours, TNF producing microglia were reduced by 56% in the ischemic cortex in LysMcreTNF fl/fl mice compared to littermate mice, whereas no TNF + leukocytes were detected. At 24 hours, pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-5 and CXCL1) levels were significantly lower in LysMcreTNF fl/fl mice, despite comparable infiltrating leukocyte populations. Our results identify microglial TNF as beneficial and neuroprotective in the acute phase and as a modulator of neuroinflammation at later time points after experimental ischemia, which may contribute to regenerative recovery.
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