Deletion of PTEN in microglia ameliorates chronic neuroinflammation following repetitive mTBI

Pearson, Andrew; Ortiz, Camila; Eisenbaum, Maxwell Thomas; Arrate, Clara; Browning, Mackenzie; Mullan, Michael; Bachmeier, Corbin; Crawford, Fiona and Ojo, Joseph (2023). Deletion of PTEN in microglia ameliorates chronic neuroinflammation following repetitive mTBI. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 125, article no. 103855.



Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in adults and children in developed nations. Following the primary injury, microglia, the resident innate immune cells of the CNS, initiate several inflammatory signaling cascades and pathophysiological responses that may persist chronically; chronic neuroinflammation following TBI has been closely linked to the development of neurodegeneration and neurological dysfunction. Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are a family of lipid kinases that have been shown to regulate several key mechanisms in the inflammatory response to TBI. Increasing evidence has shown that the modulation of the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway has the potential to influence the cellular response to inflammatory stimuli. However, directly targeting PI3K signaling poses several challenges due to its regulatory role in several cell survival pathways. We have previously identified that the phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN), the major negative regulator of PI3K/AKT signaling, is dysregulated following exposure to repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (r-mTBI). Moreover, this dysregulated PI3K/AKT signaling was correlated with chronic microglial-mediated neuroinflammation. Therefore, we interrogated microglial-specific PTEN as a therapeutic target in TBI by generating a microglial-specific, Tamoxifen inducible conditional PTEN knockout model using a CX3CR1 Cre recombinase mouse line PTENfl/fl/CX3CR1+/CreERT2 (mcg-PTENcKO), and exposed them to our 20-hit r-mTBI paradigm. Animals were treated with tamoxifen at 76 days post-last injury, and the effects of microglia PTEN deletion on immune-inflammatory responses were assessed at 90-days post last injury. We observed that the deletion of microglial PTEN ameliorated the proinflammatory response to repetitive brain trauma, not only reducing chronic microglial activation and proinflammatory cytokine production but also rescuing TBI-induced reactive astrogliosis, demonstrating that these effects extended beyond microglia alone. Additionally, we observed that the pharmacological inhibition of PTEN with BpV(HOpic) ameliorated the LPS-induced activation of microglial NFκB signaling in vitro. Together, these data provide support for the role of PTEN as a regulator of chronic neuroinflammation following repetitive mild TBI.

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