Over the last three decades it has become increasingly clear that monocytes, originally thought to have fixed, stereotypic responses to foreign stimuli, mediate exquisitely balanced protective and pathogenic roles in disease and immunity. This balance is crucial in core functional organs, such as the central nervous system (CNS), where minor changes in neuronal microenvironments and the production of immune factors can result in significant disease with fatal consequences or permanent neurological sequelae. Viral encephalitis and multiple sclerosis are examples of important human diseases in which the pathogenic contribution of monocytes recruited from the bone marrow plays a critical role in the clinical expression of disease, as they differentiate into macrophage or dendritic cells in the CNS to carry out effector functions. While antigen-specific lymphocyte populations are central to the adaptive immune response in both cases, in viral encephalitis a prominent macrophage infiltration may mediate immunopathological damage, seizure induction, and death. However, the autoimmune response to non-replicating, non-infectious, but abundant, self antigen has a different disease progression, associated with differentiation of significant numbers of infiltrating monocytes into dendritic cells in the CNS. Whilst a predominant presence of macrophages or dendritic cells in the inflamed CNS in viral encephalitis or multiple sclerosis is well described, the way in which the inflamed CNS mobilizes monocytes in the bone marrow to migrate to the CNS and the key drivers that lead to these specific differentiation pathways in vivo are not well understood. Here we review the current understanding of factors facilitating inflammatory monocyte generation, migration and entry into the brain, as well as their differentiation towards macrophages or dendritic cells in viral and autoimmune disease in relation to their respective disease outcomes.
Inflammatory monocyte-derived effector cells play an important role in the pathogenesis of numerous inflammatory diseases. However, no treatment option exists that is capable of modulating these cells specifically. We show that infused negatively charged, immune-modifying microparticles (IMPs), derived from polystyrene, microdiamonds, or biodegradable poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid, were taken up by inflammatory monocytes, in an opsonin-independent fashion, via the macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO). Subsequently, these monocytes no longer trafficked to sites of inflammation; rather, IMP infusion caused their sequestration in the spleen through apoptotic cell clearance mechanisms and, ultimately, caspase-3-mediated apoptosis. Administration of IMPs in mouse models of myocardial infarction, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis, thioglycollate-induced peritonitis, and lethal flavivirus encephalitis markedly reduced monocyte accumulation at inflammatory foci, reduced disease symptoms, and promoted tissue repair. Together, these data highlight the intricate interplay between scavenger receptors, the spleen, and inflammatory monocyte function and support the translation of IMPs for therapeutic use in diseases caused or potentiated by inflammatory monocytes.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that are characterized by chronic, uncontrolled inflammation in the intestinal mucosa. Although the aetiopathogenesis is poorly understood, it is widely believed that IBD stems from a dysregulated immune response towards otherwise harmless commensal bacteria. Chemokines induce and enhance inflammation through their involvement in cellular trafficking. Reducing or limiting the influx of these proinflammatory cells has previously been demonstrated to attenuate inflammation. CXCR3, a chemokine receptor in the CXC family that binds to CXCL9, CXCL10 and CXCL11, is strongly overexpressed in the intestinal mucosa of IBD patients. We hypothesised that CXCR3 KO mice would have impaired cellular trafficking, thereby reducing the inflammatory insult by proinflammatory cell and attenuating the course of colitis. To investigate the role of CXCR3 in the progression of colitis, the development of dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis was investigated in CXCR3-/- mice over 9 days. This study demonstrated attenuated DSS-induced colitis in CXCR3-/- mice at both the macroscopic and microscopic level. Reduced colitis correlated with lower recruitment of neutrophils (p = 0.0018), as well as decreased production of IL-6 (p<0.0001), TNF (p = 0.0038), and IFN-? (p = 0.0478). Overall, our results suggest that CXCR3 plays an important role in recruiting proinflammatory cells to the colon during colitis and that CXCR3 may be a therapeutic target to reduce the influx of proinflammatory cells in the inflamed colon.
Monocytes are a heterogeneous population of bone marrow-derived cells that are recruited to sites of infection and inflammation in many models of human diseases, including those of the central nervous system (CNS). Ly6Chi/CCR2(hi) inflammatory monocytes have been identified as the circulating precursors of brain macrophages, dendritic cells and arguably microglia in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Alzheimers disease; stroke; and more recently in CNS infection caused by Herpes simplex virus, murine hepatitis virus, Theilers murine encephalomyelitis virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and West Nile virus. The precise differentiation pathways and functions of inflammatory monocyte-derived populations in the inflamed CNS remains a contentious issue, especially in regard to the existence of monocyte-derived microglia. Furthermore, the contributions of monocyte-derived subsets to viral clearance and immunopathology are not well-defined. Thus, understanding the pathways through which inflammatory monocytes migrate to the brain and their functional capacity within the CNS is critical to inform future therapeutic strategies. This review discusses some of the key aspects of inflammatory monocyte trafficking to the brain and addresses the role of these cells in viral encephalitis.
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