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PD-L1-expressing astrocytes act as a gate-keeper for neuroinflammation in the central nervous system of mice with traumatic brain injury

By Xiang Gao, Wei Li, Fahim Syed, Fang Yuan, Ping Li, Qigui Yu

Posted 05 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.04.467368

Background: Tissue damage and cellular destruction are the major events in traumatic brain injury (TBI), which trigger sterile neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses in the brain. While appropriate acute and transient neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses facilitate the repair and adaptation of injured brain tissues, prolonged and excessive neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses exacerbate brain damage. The mechanisms that control the intensity and duration of neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses in TBI largely remain elusive. Methods: We used the controlled cortical impact (CCI) model of TBI to study the role of immune checkpoints (ICPs), key regulators of immune homeostasis, in the regulation of neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses in the brain in vivo. Results: We found that de novo expression of PD-L1, a potent inhibitory ICP, was robustly and transiently induced in reactive astrocytes, but not in microglial cells, neurons, or oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). These PD-L1+ reactive astrocytes were highly enriched to form a dense zone around the TBI lesion. Blockade of PD-L1 signaling enlarged brain tissue cavity size, increased infiltration of inflammatory Ly-6CHigh monocytes/macrophages (M/M{phi}) but not tissue-repairing Ly-6CLow/F4/80+ M/M{phi}, and worsened TBI outcomes in mice. PD-L1 gene knockout enhanced production of CCL2 that interacted with its cognate receptor CCR2 on Ly-6CHigh M/M{phi} to chemotactically recruit these cells into inflammatory sites. Mechanically, PD-L1 signaling in astrocytes likely exhibits dual inhibitory activities for the prevention of excessive neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses to TBI through (1) the PD-1/PD-L1 axis to suppress the activity of brain-infiltrating PD-1+ immune cells such as PD-1+ T cells, and (2) PD-L1 reverse signaling to regulate the timing and intensity of astrocyte reactions to TBI. Conclusions: PD-L1+ astrocytes act as a gatekeeper to the brain to control TBI-related neuroimmune and neuroinflammatory responses, thereby opening a novel avenue to study the role of ICP-neuroimmune axes in the pathophysiology of TBI and other neurological disorders.

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