Phagocytosis is a process in which a cell engulfs material (entire cell, parts of a cell, debris, etc.) in its surrounding extracellular environment and subsequently digests this material, commonly through lysosomal degradation. Microglia are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS) whose phagocytic function has been described in a broad range of conditions from neurodegenerative disease (e.g., beta-amyloid clearance in Alzheimer’s disease) to development of the healthy brain (e.g., synaptic pruning)1-6. The following protocol is an engulfment assay developed to visualize and quantify microglia-mediated engulfment of presynaptic inputs in the developing mouse retinogeniculate system7. While this assay was used to assess microglia function in this particular context, a similar approach may be used to assess other phagocytes throughout the brain (e.g., astrocytes) and the rest of the body (e.g., peripheral macrophages) as well as other contexts in which synaptic remodeling occurs (e.g. ,brain injury/disease).
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Culturing Microglia from the Neonatal and Adult Central Nervous System
Institutions: Stony Brook University, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook University.
Microglia are the resident macrophage-like cells of the central nervous system (CNS) and, as such, have critically important roles in physiological and pathological processes such as CNS maturation in development, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury. Microglia can be activated and recruited to action by neuronal injury or stimulation, such as axonal damage seen in MS or ischemic brain trauma resulting from stroke. These immunocompetent members of the CNS are also thought to have roles in synaptic plasticity under non-pathological conditions. We employ protocols for culturing microglia from the neonatal and adult tissues that are aimed to maximize the viable cell numbers while minimizing confounding variables, such as the presence of other CNS cell types and cell culture debris. We utilize large and easily discernable CNS components (e.g.
cortex, spinal cord segments), which makes the entire process feasible and reproducible. The use of adult cells is a suitable alternative to the use of neonatal brain microglia, as many pathologies studied mainly affect the postnatal spinal cord. These culture systems are also useful for directly testing the effect of compounds that may either inhibit or promote microglial activation. Since microglial activation can shape the outcomes of disease in the adult CNS, there is a need for in vitro systems in which neonatal and adult microglia can be cultured and studied.
Immunology, Issue 78, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, immunosuppression, life sciences, animal biology, animal models, biochemistry, microglia, cortex, mouse, neonatal, cell culture, spinal cord, adult, tissue culture, animal model
Coculture System with an Organotypic Brain Slice and 3D Spheroid of Carcinoma Cells
Institutions: University of Göttingen, University of Göttingen, University of Halle.
Patients with cerebral metastasis of carcinomas have a poor prognosis. However, the process at the metastatic site has barely been investigated, in particular the role of the resident (stromal) cells. Studies in primary carcinomas demonstrate the influence of the microenvironment on metastasis, even on prognosis1,2
. Especially the tumor associated macrophages (TAM) support migration, invasion and proliferation3
. Interestingly, the major target sites of metastasis possess tissue-specific macrophages, such as Kupffer cells in the liver or microglia in the CNS. Moreover, the metastatic sites also possess other tissue-specific cells, like astrocytes. Recently, astrocytes were demonstrated to foster proliferation and persistence of cancer cells4,5
. Therefore, functions of these tissue-specific cell types seem to be very important in the process of brain metastasis6,7
Despite these observations, however, up to now there is no suitable in vivo/in vitro
model available to directly visualize glial reactions during cerebral metastasis formation, in particular by bright field microscopy. Recent in vivo
live imaging of carcinoma cells demonstrated their cerebral colonization behavior8
. However, this method is very laborious, costly and technically complex. In addition, these kinds of animal experiments are restricted to small series and come with a substantial stress for the animals (by implantation of the glass plate, injection of tumor cells, repetitive anaesthesia and long-term fixation). Furthermore, in vivo
imaging is thus far limited to the visualization of the carcinoma cells, whereas interactions with resident cells have not yet been illustrated. Finally, investigations of human carcinoma cells within immunocompetent animals are impossible8
For these reasons, we established a coculture system consisting of an organotypic mouse brain slice and epithelial cells embedded in matrigel (3D cell sphere). The 3D carcinoma cell spheres were placed directly next to the brain slice edge in order to investigate the invasion of the neighboring brain tissue. This enables us to visualize morphological changes and interactions between the glial cells and carcinoma cells by fluorescence and even by bright field microscopy. After the coculture experiment, the brain tissue or the 3D cell spheroids can be collected and used for further molecular analyses (e.g.
qRT-PCR, IHC, or immunoblot) as well as for investigations by confocal microscopy. This method can be applied to monitor the events within a living brain tissue for days without deleterious effects to the brain slices. The model also allows selective suppression and replacement of resident cells by cells from a donor tissue to determine the distinct impact of a given genotype. Finally, the coculture model is a practicable alternative to in vivo
approaches when testing targeted pharmacological manipulations.
Medicine, Issue 80, Brain Tissue, Cancer Cells, Nervous System, Neoplasms, Therapeutics, Organotypic brain slice, coculture, tumor invasion, cerebral colonization, brain metastasis, microglia, astrocyte, live-imaging
Isolation of Cortical Microglia with Preserved Immunophenotype and Functionality From Murine Neonates
Institutions: Georgetown University Medical Center.
Isolation of microglia from CNS tissue is a powerful investigative tool used to study microglial biology ex vivo
. The present method details a procedure for isolation of microglia from neonatal murine cortices by mechanical agitation with a rotary shaker. This microglia isolation method yields highly pure cortical microglia that exhibit morphological and functional characteristics indicative of quiescent microglia in normal, nonpathological conditions in vivo
. This procedure also preserves the microglial immunophenotype and biochemical functionality as demonstrated by the induction of morphological changes, nuclear translocation of the p65 subunit of NF-κB (p65), and secretion of the hallmark proinflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), upon lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Pam3
(Pam) challenges. Therefore, the present isolation procedure preserves the immunophenotype of both quiescent and activated microglia, providing an experimental method of investigating microglia biology in ex vivo
Immunology, Issue 83, neuroinflammation, Cytokines, neurodegeneration, LPS, Pam3CSK4, TLRs, PAMPs, DAMPs
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
Presynaptically Silent Synapses Studied with Light Microscopy
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine.
Synaptic plasticity likely underlies the nervous system's ability to learn and remember and may also represent an adaptability that prevents otherwise damaging insults from becoming neurotoxic. We have been studying a form of presynaptic plasticity that is interesting in part because it is expressed as a digital switching on and off of a presynaptic terminal s ability to release vesicles containing the neurotransmitter glutamate. Here we demonstrate a protocol for visualizing the activity status of presynaptic terminals in dissociated cell cultures prepared from the rodent hippocampus. The method relies on detecting active synapses using staining with a fixable form of the styryl dye FM1-43, commonly used to label synaptic vesicles. This staining profile is compared with immunostaining of the same terminals with an antibody directed against the vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (vGluT-1), a stain designed to label all glutamate synapses regardless of activation status. We find that depolarizing stimuli induce presynaptic silencing. The population of synapses that is silent under baseline conditions can be activated by prolonged electrical silencing or by activation of cAMP signaling pathways.
Neurobiology, Issue 35, glutamate, synaptic plasticity, cAMP, excitotoxicity, homeostasis, FM1-43, presynaptic plasticity
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Paired Whole Cell Recordings in Organotypic Hippocampal Slices
Institutions: University of Auckland, Stanford University.
Pair recordings involve simultaneous whole cell patch clamp recordings from two synaptically connected neurons, enabling not only direct electrophysiological characterization of the synaptic connections between individual neurons, but also pharmacological manipulation of either the presynaptic or the postsynaptic neuron. When carried out in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures, the probability that two neurons are synaptically connected is significantly increased. This preparation readily enables identification of cell types, and the neurons maintain their morphology and properties of synaptic function similar to that in native brain tissue. A major advantage of paired whole cell recordings is the highly precise information it can provide on the properties of synaptic transmission and plasticity that are not possible with other more crude techniques utilizing extracellular axonal stimulation. Paired whole cell recordings are often perceived as too challenging to perform. While there are challenging aspects to this technique, paired recordings can be performed by anyone trained in whole cell patch clamping provided specific hardware and methodological criteria are followed. The probability of attaining synaptically connected paired recordings significantly increases with healthy organotypic slices and stable micromanipulation allowing independent attainment of pre- and postsynaptic whole cell recordings. While CA3-CA3 pyramidal cell pairs are most widely used in the organotypic slice hippocampal preparation, this technique has also been successful in CA3-CA1 pairs and can be adapted to any neurons that are synaptically connected in the same slice preparation. In this manuscript we provide the detailed methodology and requirements for establishing this technique in any laboratory equipped for electrophysiology.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, hippocampus, paired recording, whole cell recording, organotypic slice, synapse, synaptic transmission, synaptic plasticity
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA
Rs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials.
During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAA
Rs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other.
To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro
co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro
model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo
conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAA
Rs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
An Ex Vivo Laser-induced Spinal Cord Injury Model to Assess Mechanisms of Axonal Degeneration in Real-time
Institutions: University of Louisville, University of Calgary.
Injured CNS axons fail to regenerate and often retract away from the injury site. Axons spared from the initial injury may later undergo secondary axonal degeneration. Lack of growth cone formation, regeneration, and loss of additional myelinated axonal projections within the spinal cord greatly limits neurological recovery following injury. To assess how central myelinated axons of the spinal cord respond to injury, we developed an ex vivo
living spinal cord model utilizing transgenic mice that express yellow fluorescent protein in axons and a focal and highly reproducible laser-induced spinal cord injury to document the fate of axons and myelin (lipophilic fluorescent dye Nile Red) over time using two-photon excitation time-lapse microscopy. Dynamic processes such as acute axonal injury, axonal retraction, and myelin degeneration are best studied in real-time. However, the non-focal nature of contusion-based injuries and movement artifacts encountered during in vivo
spinal cord imaging make differentiating primary and secondary axonal injury responses using high resolution microscopy challenging. The ex vivo
spinal cord model described here mimics several aspects of clinically relevant contusion/compression-induced axonal pathologies including axonal swelling, spheroid formation, axonal transection, and peri-axonal swelling providing a useful model to study these dynamic processes in real-time. Major advantages of this model are excellent spatiotemporal resolution that allows differentiation between the primary insult that directly injures axons and secondary injury mechanisms; controlled infusion of reagents directly to the perfusate bathing the cord; precise alterations of the environmental milieu (e.g.,
calcium, sodium ions, known contributors to axonal injury, but near impossible to manipulate in vivo
); and murine models also offer an advantage as they provide an opportunity to visualize and manipulate genetically identified cell populations and subcellular structures. Here, we describe how to isolate and image the living spinal cord from mice to capture dynamics of acute axonal injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, spinal cord injury, axon, myelin, two-photon excitation microscopy, Nile Red, axonal degeneration, axonal dieback, axonal retraction
Examination of Synaptic Vesicle Recycling Using FM Dyes During Evoked, Spontaneous, and Miniature Synaptic Activities
Institutions: University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, University of Bath.
Synaptic vesicles in functional nerve terminals undergo exocytosis and endocytosis. This synaptic vesicle recycling can be effectively analyzed using styryl FM dyes, which reveal membrane turnover. Conventional protocols for the use of FM dyes were designed for analyzing neurons following stimulated (evoked) synaptic activity. Recently, protocols have become available for analyzing the FM signals that accompany weaker synaptic activities, such as spontaneous or miniature synaptic events. Analysis of these small changes in FM signals requires that the imaging system is sufficiently sensitive to detect small changes in intensity, yet that artifactual changes of large amplitude are suppressed. Here we describe a protocol that can be applied to evoked, spontaneous, and miniature synaptic activities, and use cultured hippocampal neurons as an example. This protocol also incorporates a means of assessing the rate of photobleaching of FM dyes, as this is a significant source of artifacts when imaging small changes in intensity.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, Presynaptic Terminals, Synaptic Vesicles, Microscopy, Biological Assay, Nervous System, Endocytosis, exocytosis, fluorescence imaging, FM dye, neuron, photobleaching
Isolation and Culture of Mouse Cortical Astrocytes
Institutions: University of Freiburg , University of Freiburg .
Astrocytes are an abundant cell type in the mammalian brain, yet much remains to be learned about their molecular and functional characteristics. In vitro
astrocyte cell culture systems can be used to study the biological functions of these glial cells in detail. This video protocol shows how to obtain pure astrocytes by isolation and culture of mixed cortical cells of mouse pups. The method is based on the absence of viable neurons and the separation of astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia, the three main glial cell populations of the central nervous system, in culture. Representative images during the first days of culture demonstrate the presence of a mixed cell population and indicate the timepoint, when astrocytes become confluent and should be separated from microglia and oligodendrocytes. Moreover, we demonstrate purity and astrocytic morphology of cultured astrocytes using immunocytochemical stainings for well established and newly described astrocyte markers. This culture system can be easily used to obtain pure mouse astrocytes and astrocyte-conditioned medium for studying various aspects of astrocyte biology.
Neuroscience, Issue 71, Neurobiology, Cellular Biology, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, brain, mouse, astrocyte culture, astrocyte, fibroblast, fibrinogen, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan, neuronal regeneration, cell culture, animal model
A Thin-skull Window Technique for Chronic Two-photon In vivo Imaging of Murine Microglia in Models of Neuroinflammation
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester.
Traditionally in neuroscience, in vivo
two photon imaging of the murine central nervous system has either involved the use of open-skull1,2
or thinned-skull 3
preparations. While the open-skull technique is very versatile, it is not optimal for studying microglia because it is invasive and can cause microglial activation. Even though the thinned-skull approach is minimally invasive, the repeated re-thinning of skull required for chronic imaging increases the risks of tissue injury and microglial activation and allows for a limited number of imaging sessions. Here we present a chronic thin-skull window method for monitoring murine microglia in vivo
over an extended period of time using two-photon microscopy. We demonstrate how to prepare a stable, accessible, thinned-skull cortical window (TSCW) with an apposed glass coverslip that remains translucent over the course of three weeks of intermittent observation. This TSCW preparation is far more immunologically inert with respect to microglial activation than open craniotomy or repeated skull thinning and allows an arbitrary number of imaging sessions during a time period of weeks. We prepare TSCW in CX3
GFP/+ mice 4
to visualize microglia with enhanced green fluorescent protein to ≤150 μm beneath the pial surface. We also show that this preparation can be used in conjunction with stereotactic brain injections of the HIV-1 neurotoxic protein Tat, adjacent to the TSCW, which is capable of inducing durable microgliosis. Therefore, this method is extremely useful for examining changes in microglial morphology and motility over time in the living brain in models of HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) and other neurodegenerative diseases with a neuroinflammatory component.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, Thinned-skull cortical window (TSCW), Microglia, Two-photon in vivo imaging, HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND), Neuroinflammation
Strategies for Study of Neuroprotection from Cold-preconditioning
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Neurological injury is a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality from general anesthesia and related surgical procedures that could be alleviated by development of effective, easy to administer and safe preconditioning treatments. We seek to define the neural immune signaling responsible for cold-preconditioning as means to identify novel targets for therapeutics development to protect brain before injury onset. Low-level pro-inflammatory mediator signaling changes over time are essential for cold-preconditioning neuroprotection. This signaling is consistent with the basic tenets of physiological conditioning hormesis, which require that irritative stimuli reach a threshold magnitude with sufficient time for adaptation to the stimuli for protection to become evident.
Accordingly, delineation of the immune signaling involved in cold-preconditioning neuroprotection requires that biological systems and experimental manipulations plus technical capacities are highly reproducible and sensitive. Our approach is to use hippocampal slice cultures as an in vitro
model that closely reflects their in vivo
counterparts with multi-synaptic neural networks influenced by mature and quiescent macroglia / microglia. This glial state is particularly important for microglia since they are the principal source of cytokines, which are operative in the femtomolar range. Also, slice cultures can be maintained in vitro
for several weeks, which is sufficient time to evoke activating stimuli and assess adaptive responses. Finally, environmental conditions can be accurately controlled using slice cultures so that cytokine signaling of cold-preconditioning can be measured, mimicked, and modulated to dissect the critical node aspects. Cytokine signaling system analyses require the use of sensitive and reproducible multiplexed techniques. We use quantitative PCR for TNF-α to screen for microglial activation followed by quantitative real-time qPCR array screening to assess tissue-wide cytokine changes. The latter is a most sensitive and reproducible means to measure multiple cytokine system signaling changes simultaneously. Significant changes are confirmed with targeted qPCR and then protein detection. We probe for tissue-based cytokine protein changes using multiplexed microsphere flow cytometric assays using Luminex technology. Cell-specific cytokine production is determined with double-label immunohistochemistry. Taken together, this brain tissue preparation and style of use, coupled to the suggested investigative strategies, may be an optimal approach for identifying potential targets for the development of novel therapeutics that could mimic the advantages of cold-preconditioning.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, hippocampus, slice culture, immunohistochemistry, neural-immune, gene expression, real-time PCR
Intravital Imaging of Axonal Interactions with Microglia and Macrophages in a Mouse Dorsal Column Crush Injury
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University.
Traumatic spinal cord injury causes an inflammatory reaction involving blood-derived macrophages and central nervous system (CNS)-resident microglia. Intra-vital two-photon microscopy enables the study of macrophages and microglia in the spinal cord lesion in the living animal. This can be performed in adult animals with a traumatic injury to the dorsal column. Here, we describe methods for distinguishing macrophages from microglia in the CNS using an irradiation bone marrow chimera to obtain animals in which only macrophages or microglia are labeled with a genetically encoded green fluorescent protein. We also describe a injury model that crushes the dorsal column of the spinal cord, thereby producing a simple, easily accessible, rectangular lesion that is easily visualized in an animal through a laminectomy. Furthermore, we will outline procedures to sequentially image the animals at the anatomical site of injury for the study of cellular interactions during the first few days to weeks after injury.
Cellular Biology, Issue 93, Intravital, spinal cord crush injury, chimera, microglia, macrophages, dorsal column crush, axonal dieback
Quantitative Assessment of Immune Cells in the Injured Spinal Cord Tissue by Flow Cytometry: a Novel Use for a Cell Purification Method
Institutions: University of California, University of California, University of California, University of California, University of California, University of California.
Detection of immune cells in the injured central nervous system (CNS) using morphological or histological techniques has not always provided true quantitative analysis of cellular inflammation. Flow cytometry is a quick alternative method to quantify immune cells in the injured brain or spinal cord tissue. Historically, flow cytometry has been used to quantify immune cells collected from blood or dissociated spleen or thymus, and only a few studies have attempted to quantify immune cells in the injured spinal cord by flow cytometry using fresh dissociated cord tissue. However, the dissociated spinal cord tissue is concentrated with myelin debris that can be mistaken for cells and reduce cell count reliability obtained by the flow cytometer. We have advanced a cell preparation method using the OptiPrep gradient system to effectively separate lipid/myelin debris from cells, providing sensitive and reliable quantifications of cellular inflammation in the injured spinal cord by flow cytometry. As described in our recent study (Beck & Nguyen et al., Brain. 2010 Feb; 133 (Pt 2): 433-47
), the OptiPrep cell preparation had increased sensitivity to detect cellular inflammation in the injured spinal cord, with counts of specific cell types correlating with injury severity. Critically, novel usage of this method provided the first characterization of acute and chronic cellular inflammation after SCI to include a complete time course for polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs, neutrophils), macrophages/microglia, and T-cells over a period ranging from 2 hours to 180 days post-injury (dpi), identifying a surprising novel second phase of cellular inflammation. Thorough characterization of cellular inflammation using this method may provide a better understanding of neuroinflammation in the injured CNS, and reveal an important multiphasic component of neuroinflammation that may be critical for the design and implementation of rational therapeutic treatment strategies, including both cell-based and pharmacological interventions for SCI.
Immunology, Issue 50, spinal cord injury, cellular inflammation, neuroinflammation, OptiPrep, central nervous system, neutrophils, macrophages, microglia, T-cells, flow cytometry
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
Primary Microglia Isolation from Mixed Glial Cell Cultures of Neonatal Rat Brain Tissue
Institutions: Uniformed Services University, Uniformed Services University, Uniformed Services University.
Microglia account for approximately 12% of the total cellular population in the mammalian brain. While neurons and astrocytes are considered the major cell types of the nervous system, microglia play a significant role in normal brain physiology by monitoring tissue for debris and pathogens and maintaining homeostasis in the parenchyma via phagocytic activity 1,2
. Microglia are activated during a number of injury and disease conditions, including neurodegenerative disease, traumatic brain injury, and nervous system infection 3
. Under these activating conditions, microglia increase their phagocytic activity, undergo morpohological and proliferative change, and actively secrete reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, often activating a paracrine or autocrine loop 4-6
. As these microglial responses contribute to disease pathogenesis in neurological conditions, research focused on microglia is warranted.
Due to the cellular heterogeneity of the brain, it is technically difficult to obtain sufficient microglial sample material with high purity during in vivo
experiments. Current research on the neuroprotective and neurotoxic functions of microglia require a routine technical method to consistently generate pure and healthy microglia with sufficient yield for study. We present, in text and video, a protocol to isolate pure primary microglia from mixed glia cultures for a variety of downstream applications. Briefly, this technique utilizes dissociated brain tissue from neonatal rat pups to produce mixed glial cell cultures. After the mixed glial cultures reach confluency, primary microglia are mechanically isolated from the culture by a brief duration of shaking. The microglia are then plated at high purity for experimental study.
The principle and protocol of this methodology have been described in the literature 7,8
. Additionally, alternate methodologies to isolate primary microglia are well described 9-12
. Homogenized brain tissue may be separated by density gradient centrifugation to yield primary microglia 12
. However, the centrifugation is of moderate length (45 min) and may cause cellular damage and activation, as well as, cause enriched microglia and other cellular populations. Another protocol has been utilized to isolate primary microglia in a variety of organisms by prolonged (16 hr) shaking while in culture 9-11
. After shaking, the media supernatant is centrifuged to isolate microglia. This longer two-step isolation method may also perturb microglial function and activation. We chiefly utilize the following microglia isolation protocol in our laboratory for a number of reasons: (1) primary microglia simulate in vivo
biology more faithfully than immortalized rodent microglia cell lines, (2) nominal mechanical disruption minimizes potential cellular dysfunction or activation, and (3) sufficient yield can be obtained without passage of the mixed glial cell cultures.
It is important to note that this protocol uses brain tissue from neonatal rat pups to isolate microglia and that using older rats to isolate microglia can significantly impact the yield, activation status, and functional properties of isolated microglia. There is evidence that aging is linked with microglia dysfunction, increased neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative pathologies, so previous studies have used ex vivo
adult microglia to better understand the role of microglia in neurodegenerative diseases where aging is important parameter. However, ex vivo
microglia cannot be kept in culture for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, while this protocol extends the life of primary microglia in culture, it should be noted that the microglia behave differently from adult microglia and in vitro
studies should be carefully considered when translated to an in vivo
Immunology, Issue 66, Neuroscience, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cell Culture, isolation, microglia, mixed glial cell, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease
Detection of MicroRNAs in Microglia by Real-time PCR in Normal CNS and During Neuroinflammation
Institutions: Harvard Medical School.
Microglia are cells of the myeloid lineage that reside in the central nervous system (CNS)1
. These cells play an important role in pathologies of many diseases associated with neuroinflammation such as multiple sclerosis (MS)2
. Microglia in a normal CNS express macrophage marker CD11b and exhibit a resting phenotype by expressing low levels of activation markers such as CD45. During pathological events in the CNS, microglia become activated as determined by upregulation of CD45 and other markers3
. The factors that affect microglia phenotype and functions in the CNS are not well studied. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a growing family of conserved molecules (~22 nucleotides long) that are involved in many normal physiological processes such as cell growth and differentiation4
and pathologies such as inflammation5
. MiRNAs downregulate the expression of certain target genes by binding complementary sequences of their mRNAs and play an important role in the activation of innate immune cells including macrophages6
. In order to investigate miRNA-mediated pathways that define the microglial phenotype, biological function, and to distinguish microglia from other types of macrophages, it is important to quantitatively assess the expression of particular microRNAs in distinct subsets of CNS-resident microglia. Common methods for measuring the expression of miRNAs in the CNS include quantitative PCR from whole neuronal tissue and in situ
hybridization. However, quantitative PCR from whole tissue homogenate does not allow the assessment of the expression of miRNA in microglia, which represent only 5-15% of the cells of neuronal tissue. Hybridization in situ
allows the assessment of the expression of microRNA in specific cell types in the tissue sections, but this method is not entirely quantitative. In this report we describe a quantitative and sensitive method for the detection of miRNA by real-time PCR in microglia isolated from normal CNS or during neuroinflammation using experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model for MS. The described method will be useful to measure the level of expression of microRNAs in microglia in normal CNS or during neuroinflammation associated with various pathologies including MS, stroke, traumatic injury, Alzheimer's disease and brain tumors.
Immunology, Issue 65, Neuroscience, Genetics, microglia, macrophages, microRNA, brain, mouse, real-time PCR, neuroinflammation
Isolation of Brain and Spinal Cord Mononuclear Cells Using Percoll Gradients
Institutions: University of Texas at San Antonio - UTSA.
Isolation of immune cells that infiltrate the central nervous system (CNS) during infection, trauma, autoimmunity or neurodegeneration, is often required to define their phenotype and effector functions. Histochemical approaches are instrumental to determine the location of the infiltrating cells and to analyze the associated CNS pathology. However, in-situ histochemistry and immunofluorescent staining techniques are limited by the number of antibodies that can be used at a single time to characterize immune cell subtypes in a particular tissue. Therefore, histological approaches in conjunction with immune-phenotyping by flow cytometry are critical to fully characterize the composition of local CNS infiltration. This protocol is based on the separation of CNS cellular suspensions over discontinous percoll gradients. The current article describes a rapid protocol to efficiently isolate mononuclear cells from brain and spinal cord tissues that can be effectively utilized for identification of various immune cell populations in a single sample by flow cytometry.
Immunology, Issue 48, Microglia, monocytes/macrophages, CNS, inflammation, EAE, chemokines, mouse, flow cytometry
The Organotypic Hippocampal Slice Culture Model for Examining Neuronal Injury
Institutions: Stanford University School of Medicine.
Organotypic hippocampal slice culture is an in vitro
method to examine mechanisms of neuronal injury in which the basic architecture and composition of the hippocampus is relatively preserved 1
. The organotypic culture system allows for the examination of neuronal, astrocytic and microglial effects, but as an ex vivo
preparation, does not address effects of blood flow, or recruitment of peripheral inflammatory cells. To that end, this culture method is frequently used to examine excitotoxic and hypoxic injury to pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus, but has also been used to examine the inflammatory response. Herein we describe the methods for generating hippocampal slice cultures from postnatal rodent brain, administering toxic stimuli to induce neuronal injury, and assaying and quantifying hippocampal neuronal death.
Neuroscience, Issue 44, Organotypic slice culture, excitotoxicity, NMDA
Organotypic Hippocampal Slice Cultures
Institutions: University of Washington School of Medicine.
The hippocampus, a component of the limbic system, plays important roles in long-term memory and spatial navigation 1
. Hippocampal neurons can modify the strength of their connections after brief periods of strong activation. This phenomenon, known as long-term potentiation (LTP) can last for hours or days and has become the best candidate mechanism for learning and memory 2
. In addition, the well defined anatomy and connectivity of the hippocampus 3
has made it a classical model system to study synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity4
As our understanding of the physiology of hippocampal synapses grew and molecular players became identified, a need to manipulate synaptic proteins became imperative. Organotypic hippocampal cultures offer the possibility for easy gene manipulation and precise pharmacological intervention but maintain synaptic organization that is critical to understanding synapse function in a more naturalistic context than routine culture dissociated neurons methods.
Here we present a method to prepare and culture hippocampal slices that can be easily adapted to other brain regions. This method allows easy access to the slices for genetic manipulation using different approaches like viral infection 5,6
or biolistics 7
. In addition, slices can be easily recovered for biochemical assays 8
, or transferred to microscopes for imaging 9
or electrophysiological experiments 10
Neuroscience, Issue 48, Hippocampus, Hippocampal formation, Brain Slices, Organotypic Cultures, Synaptic Transmission, Synaptic Physiology