Activated microglia mediate neuronal cell injury via a nitric oxide mechanism

Chun C. Chao, Shuxian Hu, Thomas W Molitor, Edward G. Shaskan, Phillip K. Peterson

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1084 Scopus citations


Activated microglia have been proposed to play a pathogenetic role in immune-mediated neurodegenerative diseases. To test this hypothesis, purified murine neonatal microglia were cocultured with neuronal cells derived from fetal brain. Activation with IFN-γ and LPS of these cocultures brought about a sharp decrease in uptake of γ-amino butyric acid and a marked reduction in neuronal cell survival. These effects varied with the density of microglia, the concentrations of the activation signals (IFN-γ and LPS), and the duration of coculture. Inasmuch as addition of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine blocked these effects, a L-arginine-dependent neurocytotoxic mechanism was implicated. Abundant nitrite, a metabolite of the free radical nitric oxide (NO) derived from L-arginine, was detected in activated microglial/neuronal cell cocultures and in purified microglial cell cultures but not in purified astrocyte or neuronal cell cultures, suggesting that microglia were the principal source of the NO. These findings support the hypothesis that microglia are the source of a neurocytotoxic-free radical, and shed light on an additional mechanism of immunemediated brain injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2736-2741
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 1992


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