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J Neuroinflammation. 2012 Sep 18;9:219. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-9-219.

Low-level laser therapy regulates microglial function through Src-mediated signaling pathways: implications for neurodegenerative diseases.

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  • 1MOE Key Laboratory of Laser Life Science & Institute of Laser Life Science, College of Biophotonics, South China Normal University, No, 55 Zhongshan Avenue West, Guangzhou, Tianhe District, 510631, China.



Activated microglial cells are an important pathological component in brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of He-Ne (632.8 nm, 64.6 mW/cm2) low-level laser therapy (LLLT), a non-damaging physical therapy, on activated microglia, and the subsequent signaling events of LLLT-induced neuroprotective effects and phagocytic responses.


To model microglial activation, we treated the microglial BV2 cells with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). For the LLLT-induced neuroprotective study, neuronal cells with activated microglial cells in a Transwell™ cell-culture system were used. For the phagocytosis study, fluorescence-labeled microspheres were added into the treated microglial cells to confirm the role of LLLT.


Our results showed that LLLT (20 J/cm2) could attenuate toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated proinflammatory responses in microglia, characterized by down-regulation of proinflammatory cytokine expression and nitric oxide (NO) production. LLLT-triggered TLR signaling inhibition was achieved by activating tyrosine kinases Src and Syk, which led to MyD88 tyrosine phosphorylation, thus impairing MyD88-dependent proinflammatory signaling cascade. In addition, we found that Src activation could enhance Rac1 activity and F-actin accumulation that typify microglial phagocytic activity. We also found that Src/PI3K/Akt inhibitors prevented LLLT-stimulated Akt (Ser473 and Thr308) phosphorylation and blocked Rac1 activity and actin-based microglial phagocytosis, indicating the activation of Src/PI3K/Akt/Rac1 signaling pathway.


The present study underlines the importance of Src in suppressing inflammation and enhancing microglial phagocytic function in activated microglia during LLLT stimulation. We have identified a new and important neuroprotective signaling pathway that consists of regulation of microglial phagocytosis and inflammation under LLLT treatment. Our research may provide a feasible therapeutic approach to control the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

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