Glucocorticoids mediate stress induction of the alarmin HMGB1 and reduction of the microglia checkpoint receptor CD200R1 in limbic brain structures.


Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80301, USA; Center for Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80301, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Exposure to stressors primes neuroinflammatory responses to subsequent immune challenges and stress-induced glucocorticoids (GCs) play a mediating role in this phenomenon of neuroinflammatory priming. Recent evidence also suggests that the alarmin high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) and the microglial checkpoint receptor CD200R1 serve as proximal mechanisms of stress-induced neuroinflammatory priming. However, it is unclear whether stress-induced GCs play a causal role in these proximal mechanisms of neuroinflammatory priming; this forms the focus of the present investigation. Here, we found that exposure to a severe acute stressor (inescapable tailshock) induced HMGB1 and reduced CD200R1 expression in limbic brain regions and pharmacological blockade of GC signaling (RU486) mitigated these effects of stress. To confirm these effects of RU486, adrenalectomy (ADX) with basal corticosterone (CORT) replacement was used to block the stress-induced increase in GCs as well as effects on HMGB1 and CD200R1. As with RU486, ADX mitigated the effects of stress on HMGB1 and CD200R1. Subsequently, exogenous CORT was administered to determine whether GCs are sufficient to recapitulate the effects of stress. Indeed, exogenous CORT induced expression of HMGB1 and reduced expression of CD200R1. In addition, exposure of primary microglia to CORT also recapitulated the effects of stress on CD200R1 suggesting that CORT acts directly on microglia to reduce expression of CD200R1. Taken together, these findings suggest that GCs mediate the effects of stress on these proximal mechanisms of neuroinflammatory priming.