Spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers a heterogeneous macrophage response that when experimentally polarized toward alternative forms of activation (M2 macrophages) promotes tissue and functional recovery. There are limited pharmacological therapies that can drive this reparative inflammatory state. In the current study, we used in vitrosystems to comprehensively defined markers of macrophages with known pathological (M1) and reparative (M2) properties in SCI. We then used these markers to objectively define the macrophage activation states after SCI in response to delayed azithromycin treatment. Mice were subjected to moderate-severe thoracic contusion SCI. Azithromycin or vehicle was administered beginning 30 minutes post-SCI and then daily for 3 or 7 days post injury (dpi). We detected a dose-dependent polarization toward purportedly protective M2 macrophages with daily AZM treatment. Specifically, AZM doses of 10, 40, or 160 mg/kg decreased M1 macrophage gene expression at 3 dpi while the lowest (10 mg/kg) and highest (160 mg/kg) doses increased M2 macrophage gene expression at 7 dpi. Azithromycin has documented immunomodulatory properties and is commonly prescribed to treat infections in SCI individuals. This work demonstrates the utility of objective, comprehensive macrophage gene profiling for evaluating immunomodulatory SCI therapies and highlights azithromycin as a promising agent for SCI treatment.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Scientific Reports, v. 7, article no. 40144, p. 1-10.

© The Author(s) 2017

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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This work is supported by NIH NINDS R01 NS091582 and P30 NS051220, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, and the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

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Supplementary information accompanies this paper at http://www.nature.com/srep

srep40144-s1.pdf (8711 kB)
Supplemental Figure S1