Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 1-31-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology - (Ph.D.)


Federated Department of Biological Sciences

First Advisor

G. Miller Jonakait

Second Advisor

Haesun Kim

Third Advisor

Wilma Friedman

Fourth Advisor

Nicholas M. Ponzio

Fifth Advisor

Christine Maria Rohowsky-Kochan


Microglia are the resident immune cells of the CNS. In the healthy CNS, they express negligible levels of MHC II molecules as well as co-stimulatory molecules CD40, CD80 and CD86 necessary for antigen presentation to and activation of T cells. Co-stimulatory molecule expression can be induced in isolated microglia in vitro by sequential treatment with granulocyte monocyte colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) followed by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Upon such treatment, they become mature dendritic cells (DCs), capable of activating T cells. However, microglia are not isolated in life, but rather exist in an environment enriched by other cells, notably astrocytes.

Therefore, to determine the effect of astrocytes on the assumption by microglia of the DC phenotype, microglia were treated with GM-CSF and LPS either in the presence or absence of astrocytes and assayed for the DC phenotypic marker CD11c and the co-stimulatory CD40, CD80, CD86 and MHC II by flow cytometry. When compared to isolated microglia, a significantly lower percentage of microglia co-cultured with astrocytes expressed these markers. Astrocytes also prevent the expression of these molecules in bone marrow-derived DCs. Neither interleukin-10, transforming growth factor-beta, nor prostaglandin E2 are responsible for the inhibition. Rather, contact with the astrocytic environment is responsible for the suppressive qualities.

Microglia cultured in the presence of astrocytes are also functionally distinct from those cultured in isolation. Microglia in association with astrocytes promote T cell proliferation more robustly than do microglia in isolation. By contrast, a significantly higher percentage of CD4+ T cells stimulated with αCD3 in the presence of isolated microglia acquire an anti-inflammatory Foxp3+ T regulatory phenotype when compared to T cells cultured with microglia in the presence of astrocytes. This is not due to interactions between CD80/CD86 and CTLA4. The elevated presence of Foxp3+ T cells appears to be responsible for the lower level of T cell proliferation in the presence of isolated microglia. Finally, analysis of the supernatants from the T cell co-culture experiments reveal that astrocytic interaction(s) with microglia suppress T cell production of pro-inflammatory cytoki nes i nterferon-γ and interleukin-17. These data taken together suggest that astrocytes play a crucial role in modulating the microgl i al immune response in the CNS.

Included in

Biology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.