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Stroke. 2011 Jul;42(7):2026-32. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.593772. Epub 2011 May 19.

Increased brain injury and worsened neurological outcome in interleukin-4 knockout mice after transient focal cerebral ischemia.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, Stanford University School of Medicine, S272, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.



Stroke causes brain injury with activation of an inflammatory response that can contribute to injury. We tested the hypothesis that the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) reduces injury after stroke using IL-4 knockout (KO) adult male mice.


IL-4 KO and wild-type mice were subjected to transient middle cerebral artery occlusion. Outcome was assessed by triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining for infarct volume, neuroscore and spontaneous activity for behavioral outcome, and immunostaining and stereological counting for cellular response.


Infarction volume at 24 hours was significantly larger in IL-4 KO mice, neurological score was significantly worse, and spontaneous activity was reduced compared with wild-type mice. Increased macrophage/microglial infiltration, increased numbers of myeloperoxidase-positive cells, and increased Th1/Th2 ratio were observed in the infarct core in IL-4 KO mice. Reduced astrocyte activation was observed in the cortical penumbra in IL-4 KO mice. Recombinant IL-4 administered intracerebroventricularly before middle cerebral artery occlusion significantly reduced infarct volume, improved neurological score, reduced macrophages/microglia, and lowered the Th1/Th2 ratio in IL-4 KO mice, but not in wild-type.


Loss of IL-4 signaling in KO mice was associated with worse outcome, and this was reversed by giving exogenous IL-4. Worsened outcome was associated with increased inflammation in the core, which was reversed in IL-4 KO but not significantly changed in wild-type mice by exogenous IL-4. This is consistent with IL-4 signaling leading to reduced inflammation in the core and a possible beneficial role for activated astrocytes in the penumbra.

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