Background: The migration of peripheral immune cells and splenocytes to the ischemic brain is one of the major causes of delayed neuroinflammation after permanent large vessel stroke. Other groups have demonstrated that leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), a cytokine that promotes neural cell survival through upregulation of antioxidant enzymes, promotes an anti-inflammatory phenotype in several types of immune cells. The goal of this study was to determine whether LIF treatment modulates the peripheral immune response after stroke.

Methods: Young male (3 month) Sprague-Dawley rats underwent sham surgery or permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Animals were administered LIF (125 μg/kg) or PBS at 6, 24, and 48 h prior to euthanization at 72 h. Bone marrow-derived macrophages were treated with LIF (20 ng/ml) or PBS after stimulation with interferon gamma + LPS. Western blot was used to measure protein levels of CD11b, IL-12, interferon inducible protein-10, CD3, and the LIF receptor in spleen and brain tissue. ELISA was used to measure IL-10, IL-12, and interferon gamma. Isolectin was used to label activated immune cells in brain tissue sections. Statistical analysis was performed using one-way ANOVA and Student’s t test. A Kruskal-Wallis test followed by Bonferroni-corrected Mann-Whitney tests was performed if data did not pass the D’Agostino-Pearson normality test.

Results: LIF-treated rats showed significantly lower levels of the LIF receptor and interferon gamma in the spleen and CD11b levels in the brain compared to their PBS-treated counterparts. Fluorescence from isolectin-binding immune cells was more prominent in the ipsilateral cortex and striatum after PBS treatment compared to LIF treatment. MCAO + LIF significantly decreased splenic levels of CD11b and CD3 compared to sham surgery. MCAO + PBS treatment significantly elevated splenic levels of interferon inducible protein-10 at 72 h after MCAO, while LIF treatment after MCAO returned interferon inducible protein 10 to sham levels. LIF administration with interferon gamma + LPS significantly reduced the IL-12/IL-10 production ratio compared to macrophages treated with interferon gamma + LPS alone.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that LIF promotes anti-inflammatory signaling through alterations of the IL-12/interferon gamma/interferon inducible protein 10 pathway.

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Published in Journal of Neuroinflammation, v. 15, 288, p. 1-17.

© The Author(s). 2018

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Funding Information

The work of K.P. is supported by internal funding from the University of Kentucky as well as the following project grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: 1R01NS091146-01, 1R56NS091146-01, and 1R21NS078517-01. The work of J.G. is also supported by funding from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Project 5R01NS091582-03).

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All data generated and analyzed during this study are not publicly available but can be made available from the corresponding author upon request.