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Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans prevent immune cell phenotypic conversion and inflammation resolution via TLR4 in rodent models of spinal cord injury

Research group Verhaagen
Publication year 2022
Published in Nature Communications
Authors Fred De Winter, J. Verhaagen, Isaac Francos-Quijorna, Marina Sánchez-Petidier, Emily R Burnside, Smaranda R Badea, Abel Torres-Espin, Lucy Marshall, Victoria Moreno-Manzano, Elizabeth J Bradbury,

Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) act as potent inhibitors of axonal growth and neuroplasticity after spinal cord injury (SCI). Here we reveal that CSPGs also play a critical role in preventing inflammation resolution by blocking the conversion of pro-inflammatory immune cells to a pro-repair phenotype in rodent models of SCI. We demonstrate that enzymatic digestion of CSPG glycosaminoglycans enhances immune cell clearance and reduces pro-inflammatory protein and gene expression profiles at key resolution time points. Analysis of phenotypically distinct immune cell clusters revealed CSPG-mediated modulation of macrophage and microglial subtypes which, together with T lymphocyte infiltration and composition changes, suggests a role for CSPGs in modulating both innate and adaptive immune responses after SCI. Mechanistically, CSPG activation of a pro-inflammatory phenotype in pro-repair immune cells was found to be TLR4-dependent, identifying TLR4 signalling as a key driver of CSPG-mediated immune modulation. These findings establish CSPGs as critical mediators of inflammation resolution failure after SCI in rodents, which leads to prolonged inflammatory pathology and irreversible tissue destruction.

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