Inflammation is increasingly viewed as a new therapeutic target in subacute stages of brain infarction. However, apart from causing secondary damage, inflammation could equally promote beneficial lesion remodeling and repair. Distinct subpopulations of monocytes/macrophages (MOs/MPs) may critically determine the outcome of lesion-associated inflammation.
We addressed the role of bone marrow-derived MOs/MPs in 2 different mouse models of ischemic stroke using a combined cell-specific depletion, chemokine receptor knockout, bone marrow chimeric, and pharmacological approach.
Starting within 24 hours of stroke onset, immature Ly6chi monocytes infiltrated into the infarct border zone and differentiated into mature Ly6clo phagocytes within the lesion compartment. MO/MP infiltration was CCR2-dependent, whereas we did not obtain evidence for additional recruitment via CX3CR1. Depletion of circulating MOs/MPs or selective targeting of CCR2 in bone marrow-derived cells caused delayed clinical deterioration and hemorrhagic conversion of the infarctions. Bleeding frequently occurred around thin-walled, dilated neovessels in the infarct border zone and was accompanied by decreased expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 and collagen-4, along with diminished activation of Smad2. Injection of TGF-β1 into the lesion border zone greatly reduced infarct bleeding in MO/MP-depleted mice.
Bone marrow-derived MOs/MPs recruited via CCR2 and acting via TGF-β1 are essential for maintaining integrity of the neurovascular unit following brain ischemia. Future therapies should be aimed at enhancing physiological repair functions of CCR2+ MOs/MPs rather than blocking their hematogenous recruitment. ANN NEUROL 2012;71:743–752