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Microglia are mediators of Borrelia burgdorferi-induced apoptosis in SH-SY5Y neuronal cells.

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Abstract

Inflammation has long been implicated as a contributor to pathogenesis in many CNS illnesses, including
Lyme neuroborreliosis. Borrelia burgdorferi is the spirochete that causes
Lyme disease and it is known to potently induce the production of inflammatory mediators in a variety of cells. In experiments where B. burgdorferi was co-cultured in vitro with primary microglia, we observed robust expression and release of IL-6 and IL-8, CCL2 (MCP-1), CCL3 (MIP-1alpha), CCL4 (MIP-1beta) and CCL5 (RANTES), but we detected no induction of microglial apoptosis. In contrast, SH-SY5Y (SY) neuroblastoma cells co-cultured with B. burgdorferi expressed negligible amounts of inflammatory mediators and also remained resistant to apoptosis. When SY cells were co-cultured with microglia and B. burgdorferi, significant neuronal apoptosis consistently occurred. Confocal microscopy imaging of these cell cultures stained for apoptosis and with cell type-specific markers confirmed that it was predominantly the SY cells that were dying. Microarray analysis demonstrated an intense microglia-mediated inflammatory response to B. burgdorferi including up-regulation in gene transcripts for TLR-2 and NFkappabeta. Surprisingly, a pathway that exhibited profound changes in regard to inflammatory signaling was triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-1 (TREM1). Significant transcript alterations in essential p53 pathway genes also occurred in SY cells cultured in the presence of microglia and B. burgdorferi, which indicated a shift from cell survival to preparation for apoptosis when compared to SY cells cultured in the presence of B. burgdorferi alone. Taken together, these findings indicate that B. burgdorferi is not directly toxic to SY cells; rather, these cells become distressed and die in the inflammatory surroundings generated by microglia through a bystander effect. If, as we hypothesized, neuronal apoptosis is the key pathogenic event in
Lyme neuroborreliosis, then targeting microglial responses may be a significant therapeutic approach for the treatment of this form of
Lyme disease.

PLoS Pathog. 2009 Nov;5(11):e1000659. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000659. Epub 2009 Nov 13. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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