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Endotoxin-activated microglia injure brain derived endothelial cells via NF-κB, JAK-STAT and JNK stress kinase pathways

Rachid Kacimi1, Rona G Giffard2 and Midori A Yenari1*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. Neurology, University of California, San Francisco & San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco 94121 USA

2 Dept. Anesthesia Department, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford 94305 USA

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Journal of Inflammation 2011, 8:7  doi:10.1186/1476-9255-8-7

Published: 7 March 2011



We previously showed that microglia damage blood brain barrier (BBB) components following ischemic brain insults, but the underlying mechanism(s) is/are not well known. Recent work has established the contribution of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) activation to several brain pathologies including ischemia, neurodegeneration and sepsis. The present study established the requirement of microglia for lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mediated endothelial cell death, and explored pathways involved in this toxicity. LPS is a classic TLR4 agonist, and is used here to model aspects of brain conditions where TLR4 stimulation occurs.


In monocultures, LPS induced death in microglia, but not brain derived endothelial cells (EC). However, LPS increased EC death when cocultured with microglia. LPS led to nitric oxide (NO) and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) induction in microglia, but not in EC. Inhibiting microglial activation by blocking iNOS and other generators of NO or blocking reactive oxygen species (ROS) also prevented injury in these cocultures. To assess the signaling pathway(s) involved, inhibitors of several downstream TLR-4 activated pathways were studied. Inhibitors of NF-κB, JAK-STAT and JNK/SAPK decreased microglial activation and prevented cell death, although the effect of blocking JNK/SAPK was rather modest. Inhibitors of PI3K, ERK, and p38 MAPK had no effect.


We show that LPS-activated microglia promote BBB disruption through injury to endothelial cells, and the specific blockade of JAK-STAT, NF-κB may prove to be especially useful anti-inflammatory strategies to confer cerebrovascular protection.