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November 2017



Chronic microglia-mediated inflammation and oxidative stress are well-characterized underlying factors in neurodegenerative disease, whereby reactive inflammatory microglia enhance ROS production and impact neuronal integrity. Recently, it has been shown that during chronic inflammation, neuronal integrity is compromised through targeted disruption of the axon initial segment (AIS), the axonal domain critical for action potential initiation. AIS disruption was associated with contact by reactive inflammatory microglia which wrap around the AIS, increasing association with disease progression. While it is clear that chronic microglial inflammation and enhanced ROS production impact neuronal integrity, little is known about how acute microglial inflammation influences AIS stability. Here, we demonstrate that acute neuroinflammation induces AIS structural plasticity in a ROS-mediated and calpain-dependent manner.


C57BL/6J and NOX2−/− mice were given a single injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 5 mg/kg) or vehicle (0.9% saline, 10 mL/kg) and analyzed at 6 h–2 weeks post-injection. Anti-inflammatory Didox (250 mg/kg) or vehicle (0.9% saline, 10 mL/kg) was administered beginning 24 h post-LPS injection and continued for 5 days; animals were analyzed 1 week post-injection. Microglial inflammation was assessed using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and RT-qPCR, and AIS integrity was quantitatively analyzed using ankyrinG immunolabeling. Data were statistically compared by one-way or two-way ANOVA where mean differences were significant as assessed using Tukey’s post hoc analysis.


LPS-induced neuroinflammation, characterized by enhanced microglial inflammation and increased expression of ROS-producing enzymes, altered AIS protein clustering. Importantly, inflammation-induced AIS changes were reversed following resolution of microglial inflammation. Modulation of the inflammatory response using anti-inflammatory Didox, even after significant AIS disruption occurred, increased the rate of AIS recovery. qPCR and IHC analysis revealed that expression of microglial NOX2, a ROS-producing enzyme, was significantly increased correlating with AIS disruption. Furthermore, ablation of NOX2 prevented inflammation-induced AIS plasticity, suggesting that ROS drive AIS structural plasticity.


In the presence of acute microglial inflammation, the AIS undergoes an adaptive change that is capable of spontaneous recovery. Moreover, recovery can be therapeutically accelerated. Together, these findings underscore the dynamic capabilities of this domain in the presence of a pathological insult and provide evidence that the AIS is a viable therapeutic target.


© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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VCU Anatomy and Neurobiology Publications