Author(s): Prow NA, Irani DN
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Abstract Spread of neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV) to motor neurons (MN) of the spinal cord (SC) causes severe hind limb weakness in C57BL/6 mice and models the paralysis that can accompany alphavirus and flavivirus encephalomyelitis in humans. The fate of spinal MN dictates the severity of NSV-induced paralysis, and recent data suggest that MN damage can occur indirectly via the actions of activated microglial cells. Because the opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone (NAL), blocks microglial-mediated neurodegeneration in other models, we examined its effects during NSV infection. Drug treatment prevented paralysis and enhanced the survival of MN without altering NSV tropism, replication, or clearance from SC tissue. Further studies showed that NAL most effectively inhibited paralysis in a 72-h window after NSV challenge, suggesting that the drug inhibits an early event in SC pathogenesis. Histochemical studies demonstrated that NAL blocked early microglial activation in SC tissue sections, and protein assays showed that the early induction of pathogenic IL-1 beta was blunted in SC homogenates. Finally, loss of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) expression in SC, an astrocyte glutamate reuptake protein responsible for lowering toxic extracellular levels of glutamate and preventing MN damage, was reversed by NAL treatment. This GLT-1 loss proved to be highly IL-1 beta-dependent. Taken together, these data suggest that NAL is neuroprotective in the SC by inhibiting microglial activation that, in turn, maintains normal astrocyte glutamate homeostasis. We propose that drugs targeting such microglial responses may have therapeutic benefit in humans with related viral infections.
This article was published in Exp Neurol
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy