The cytokine, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), is a key regulator of neuroinflammation linked to numerous neurodegenerative conditions and diseases. The present study used transgenic rats that overexpress a murine TNFα gene, under the control of its own promoter, to investigate the impact of chronically elevated TNFα on hippocampal synaptic function. Neuronal viability and cognitive recovery in TNFα Tg rats were also determined following an ischemic insult arising from reversible middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Basal CA3-CA1 synaptic strength, recorded in acute brain slices, was not significantly different between eight-week-old TNFα Tg rats and non-Tg rats. In contrast, slices from TNFα Tg rats showed significantly greater levels of long-term potentiation (LTP) in response to 100 Hz stimulation, suggesting that synaptic networks may be hyperexcitable in the context of elevated TNFα. Cognitive and motor deficits (assessed on the Morris Water Maze and Rotarod task, respectively) were present in TNFα Tg rats in the absence of significant differences in the loss of cortical and hippocampal neurons. TNF overexpression exacerbated MCAO-dependent deficits on the rotarod, but ameliorated cortical neuron loss in response to MCAO.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in PLOS ONE, v. 11, no. 5, e0154721, p. 1-20.

© 2016 Pettigrew et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Funding Information

NIH/NINDS grant R01 NS047395 and a McGeorge Neurological and Spinal Cord Grant awarded through the Research & Development Office, Lexington VA Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky (L.C.P.). NIH/NIA grant R01 AG027297 and a Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust Award 12-10A (C.M.N.).

journal.pone.0154721.s001.XLS (590 kB)
S1 File. Raw data for producing figures and for conducting statistical analyses.