Early Microglial Activation Following Closed-Head Concussive Injury Is Dominated by Pro-Inflammatory M-1 Type

Sindhu K. Madathil*, Bernard S. Wilfred, Sarah E. Urankar, Weihong Yang, Lai Yee Leung, Janice S. Gilsdorf, Deborah A. Shear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Microglial activation is a pathological hallmark of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Following brain injury, activated microglia/macrophages adopt different phenotypes, generally categorized as M-1, or classically activated, and M-2, or alternatively activated. While the M-1, or pro-inflammatory phenotype is detrimental to recovery, M-2, or the anti-inflammatory phenotype, AIDS in brain repair. Recent findings also suggest the existence of mixed phenotype following brain injury, where activated microglia simultaneously express both M-1 and M-2 markers. The present study sought to determine microglial activation states at early time points (6-72 h) following single or repeated concussive injury in rats. Closed-head concussive injury was modeled in rats using projectile concussive impact injury, with either single or repeated impacts (4 impacts, 1 h apart). Brain samples were examined using immunohistochemical staining, inflammatory gene profiling and real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses to detect concussive injury induced changes in microglial activation and phenotype in cortex and hippocampal regions. Our findings demonstrate robust microglial activation following concussive brain injury. Moreover, we show that multiple concussions induced a unique rod-shaped microglial morphology that was also observed in other diffuse brain injury models. Histological studies revealed a predominance of MHC-II positive M-1 phenotype in the post-concussive microglial milieu following multiple impacts. Although there was simultaneous expression of M-1 and M-2 markers, gene expression results indicate a clear dominance in M-1 pro-inflammatory markers following both single and repeated concussions. While the increase in M-1 markers quickly resolved after a single concussion, they persisted following repeated concussions, indicating a pro-inflammatory environment induced by multiple concussions that may delay recovery and contribute to long-lasting consequences of concussion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number964
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Concussion
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia
  • Polarization
  • Traumatic brain injury


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