Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Keith R. Pennypacker


brain ischemia, interferon-gamma, interferon-inducible protein 10, microglia/macrophages, neurodegeneration


The peripheral immune system plays a role in delayed neural injury after stroke. This response originates from the spleen as splenectomy prior to middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in rats significantly reduces infarct volume in the brain. This research is based on the hypothesis that inhibiting the splenic response will reduce neurodegeneration after stroke. Studies in animals have implicated lymphocytes as the immune cell type that is detrimental following MCAO. Interferon gamma (IFNγ) has been identified as a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is also detrimental following stroke. IFNγ is important because it activates microglia and macrophages in a pro-inflammatory nature that increases neural injury following stroke. Therefore IFNγ was examined in the brain and the spleen following MCAO. IFNγ protein was elevated at 24 h in the spleen and at 72 h in the brain post MCAO. Microglia/macrophages become maximally activated at 72 h in the brain after MCAO. Splenectomy decreases the levels of IFNγ in the brain following MCAO. Systemic administration of IFNγ reversed the protective effects of splenectomy.

The cellular response to MCAO was examined next because of the difference in time between the spike in IFNγ in the spleen and the delayed increase in the brain. The cellular response from the spleen was studied by labeling splenocytes five days prior to MCAO with a fluorescein dye. Tissues were examined 48 and 96 h post MCAO or sham MCAO for fluorescence. These cells were released from the spleen into circulation at 48 h post MCAO and migrated to the brain where the cells produced IFNγ at 96 h post MCAO.

IFNγ appears to play a role in the splenic response to stroke. One protein that is up regulated by cells that have been activated by IFNγ, interferon-inducible protein 10 (IP-10) is part of the inflammatory cycle driven by IFNγ. IP-10 recruits more IFNγ producing T helper (Th) cells to the site of injury. IP-10 has the unique ability to attract Th1 cells, the pro-inflammatory Th cells, and inhibit Th2 cells, the anti-inflammatory Th cells. This leads to more IFNγ production as IFNγ is the signature cytokine of a Th1 response. IP-10 is significantly increased in the brain at 72 h post MCAO, similar to IFNγ expression. In the spleen IP-10 increased at 24 h and remained elevated out to 96 h following MCAO. IFNγ signaling was inhibited by utilizing an IFNγ neutralizing antibody administered beginning 24 h post MCAO. The IFNγ antibody treated group had decreased infarct volumes, IP-10 levels in the brain, and appeared to have decreased T cells in the ipsilateral hemisphere at 96 h post MCAO.

Following ischemic stroke splenocytes are released into circulation and migrate to the brain. They release IFNγ to activate microglia/macrophages in a proinflammatory phenotype causing an increase in IP-10 levels. IP-10 then potentiates the Th1 driven inflammation which inhibits the Th2 response. The elevated levels of IFNγ increase neural injury following MCAO. Blocking IFNγ selectively blocks the inflammatory facet of the immune response to reduce stroke induced neurodegeneration. This leaves the other immune responses intact and able to contribute to tissue repair, regeneration, and able to respond to infections. Selectively inhibiting IFNγ signaling is a promising stroke therapeutic.