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Neurosci Lett. 2013 Feb 28;539:65-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2013.01.052. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

Phagocytosis of bacteria by olfactory ensheathing cells and Schwann cells.

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Neurosurgery Unit, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano 20132, Italy.


Opportunistic bacterial infections of the nasal cavity could potentially lead to infection of the brain if the olfactory or trigeminal nerves are colonised. The olfactory nerve may be a more susceptible route because primary olfactory neurons are in direct contact with the external environment. Peripheral glia are known to be able to phagocytose some species of bacteria and may therefore provide a defence mechanism against bacterial infection. As the nasal cavity is frequently exposed to bacterial infections, we hypothesised that the olfactory and trigeminal nerves within the nasal cavity could be subjected to bacterial colonisation and that the olfactory ensheathing cells and Schwann cells may be involved in responding to the bacterial invasion. We have examined the ability of mouse OECs and Schwann cells from the trigeminal nerve and dorsal root ganglia to phagocytose Escherichia coli and Burkholderia thailandensis in vitro. We found that all three sources of glia were equally able to phagocytose E. coli with 75-85% of glia having phagocytosed bacteria within 24h. We also show that human OECs phagocytosed E. coli. In contrast, the mouse OECs and Schwann cells had little capacity to phagocytose B. thailandensis. Thus subtypes of peripheral glia have similar capacities for phagocytosis of bacteria but show selective capacity for the two different species of bacteria that were examined. These results have implications for the understanding of the mechanisms of bacterial infections as well as for the use of glia for neural repair therapies.

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