Experimental autoimmune encephalopathy (EAE)-induced hippocampal neuroinflammation and memory deficits... (Abstract)

Experimental autoimmune encephalopathy (EAE)-induced hippocampal neuroinflammation and memory deficits are prevented with the non-opioid TLR2/TLR4 antagonist (+)-naltrexone

Behav Brain Res
01 Jan 2021

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is associated with burdensome memory impairments and preclinical literature suggests that these impairments are linked to neuroinflammation. Previously, we have shown that toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) antagonists, such as (+)-naltrexone [(+)-NTX], block neuropathic pain and associated spinal inflammation in rats. Here we extend these findings to first demonstrate that (+)-NTX blocks TLR2 in addition to TLR4. Additionally, we examined in two rat strains whether (+)-NTX could attenuate learning and memory disturbances and associated neuroinflammation using a low-dose experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model of MS. EAE is the most commonly used experimental model for the human inflammatory demyelinating disease, MS. This low-dose model avoided motor impairments that would confound learning and memory measurements. Fourteen days later, daily subcutaneous (+)-NTX or saline injections began and continued throughout the study. Contextual and auditory-fear conditioning were conducted at day 21 to assess hippocampal and amygdalar function. With this low-dose model, EAE impaired long-term, but not short-term, contextual fear memory; both long-term and short-term auditory-cued fear memory were spared. This was associated with increased mRNA for hippocampal interleukin-1β (IL-1β), TLR2, TLR4, NLRP3, and IL-17 and elevated expression of the microglial marker Iba1 in CA1 and DG regions of the hippocampus, confirming the neuroinflammation observed in higher-dose EAE models. Importantly, (+)-NTX completely prevented the EAE-induced memory impairments and robustly attenuated the associated proinflammatory effects. These findings suggest that (+)-NTX may exert therapeutic effects on memory function by dampening the neuroinflammatory response in the hippocampus through blockade of TLR2/TLR4. This study suggests that TLR2 and TLR4 antagonists may be effective at treating MS-related memory deficits.

Keywords: Auditory fear conditioning; Contextual fear conditioning; Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Hippocampus; Multiple sclerosis; Rats; Toll-like receptors.