Transient IKK2 activation in astrocytes initiates selective non-cell-autonomous neurodegeneration

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BACKGROUND: Neuroinflammation is associated with a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders, however the specific contribution to individual disease pathogenesis and selective neuronal cell death is not well understood. Inflammatory cerebellar ataxias are neurodegenerative diseases occurring in various autoimmune/inflammatory conditions, e.g. paraneoplastic syndromes. However, how inflammatory insults can cause selective cerebellar neurodegeneration in the context of these diseases remains open, and appropriate animal models are lacking. A key regulator of neuroinflammatory processes is the NF-κB signalling pathway, which is activated by the IκB kinase 2 (IKK2) in response to various pathological conditions. Importantly, its activation is sufficient to initiate neuroinflammation on its own. METHODS: To investigate the contribution of IKK/NF-κB-mediated neuroinflammation to neurodegeneration, we established conditional mouse models of cerebellar neuroinflammation, which depend either on the tetracycline-regulated expression of IKK2 in astrocytes or Cre-recombination based IKK2 activation in Bergmann glia. RESULTS: We demonstrate that IKK2 activation for a limited time interval in astrocytes is sufficient to induce neuroinflammation, astrogliosis and loss of Purkinje neurons, resembling the pathogenesis of inflammatory cerebellar ataxias. We identified IKK2-driven irreversible dysfunction of Bergmann glia as critical pathogenic event resulting in Purkinje cell loss. This was independent of Lipocalin 2, an acute phase protein secreted by reactive astrocytes and well known to mediate neurotoxicity. Instead, downregulation of the glutamate transporters EAAT1 and EAAT2 and ultrastructural alterations suggest an excitotoxic mechanism of Purkinje cell degeneration. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest a novel pathogenic mechanism how diverse inflammatory insults can cause inflammation/autoimmune-associated cerebellar ataxias. Disease-mediated elevation of danger signals like TLR ligands and inflammatory cytokines in the cerebellum activates IKK2/NF-κB signalling in astrocytes, which as a consequence triggers astrogliosis-like activation of Bergmann glia and subsequent non-cell-autonomous Purkinje cell degeneration. Notably, the identified hit and run mechanism indicates only an early window for therapeutic interventions.

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Volume 12
Issue number 1
Pages 16
Available online
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