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J Immunol. 2006 Mar 15;176(6):3804-12.

Microglia recognize double-stranded RNA via TLR3.

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  • 1Section of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, 300 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Microglia are CNS resident innate immune cells of myeloid origin that become activated and produce innate proinflammatory molecules upon encountering bacteria or viruses. TLRs are a phylogenetically conserved diverse family of sensors for pathogen-associated molecular patterns that drive innate immune responses. We have recently shown that mice deficient in TLR3 (TLR3(-/-) mice) are resistant to lethal encephalitis and have reduced microglial activation after infection with West Nile virus, a retrovirus that produces dsRNA. We wished to determine whether microglia recognize dsRNA through the TLR3 pathway. In vitro, murine wild-type primary cultured microglia responded to synthetic dsRNA polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)) by increasing TLR3 and IFN-beta mRNA and by morphologic activation. Furthermore, wild-type microglia dose dependently secreted TNF-alpha and IL-6 after poly(I:C) challenge, whereas TLR3(-/-) microglia produced diminished cytokines. Activation of MAPK occurred in a time-dependent fashion following poly(I:C) treatment of wild-type microglia, but happened with delayed kinetics in TLR3(-/-) microglia. As an in vivo model of encephalitis, wild-type or TLR3(-/-) mice were injected intracerebroventricularly with poly(I:C) or LPS, and microglial activation was assessed by cell surface marker or phospho-MAPK immunofluorescence. After intracerebroventricular injection of poly(I:C), microgliosis was clearly evident in wild-type mice but was nearly absent in TLR3(-/-) animals. When taken together, our results demonstrate that microglia recognize dsRNA through TLR3 and associated signaling molecules and suggest that these cells are key sensors of dsRNA-producing viruses that may invade the CNS.

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