Neuronal CCL2 expression drives inflammatory monocyte infiltration into the brain during acute virus infection

Charles L. Howe, Reghann G. LaFrance-Corey, Emma N. Goddery, Renee K. Johnson, Kanish Mirchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Viral encephalitis is a dangerous compromise between the need to robustly clear pathogen from the brain and the need to protect neurons from bystander injury. Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) infection of C57Bl/6 mice is a model of viral encephalitis in which the compromise results in hippocampal damage and permanent neurological sequelae. We previously identified brain-infiltrating inflammatory monocytes as the primary driver of this hippocampal pathology, but the mechanisms involved in recruiting these cells to the brain were unclear. Methods: Chemokine expression levels in the hippocampus were assessed by microarray, ELISA, RT-PCR, and immunofluorescence. Monocyte infiltration during acute TMEV infection was measured by flow cytometry. CCL2 levels were manipulated by immunodepletion and by specific removal from neurons in mice generated by crossing a line expressing the Cre recombinase behind the synapsin promoter to animals with floxed CCL2. Results: Inoculation of the brain with TMEV induced hippocampal production of the proinflammatory chemokine CCL2 that peaked at 6h postinfection, whereas inoculation with UV-inactivated TMEV did not elicit this response. Immunofluorescence revealed that hippocampal neurons expressed high levels of CCL2 at this timepoint. Genetic deletion of CCR2 and systemic immunodepletion of CCL2 abrogated or blunted the infiltration of inflammatory monocytes into the brain during acute infection. Specific genetic deletion of CCL2 from neurons reduced serum and hippocampal CCL2 levels and inhibited inflammatory monocyte infiltration into the brain. Conclusions: We conclude that intracranial inoculation with infectious TMEV rapidly induces the expression of CCL2 in neurons, and this cellular source is necessary for CCR2-dependent infiltration of inflammatory monocytes into the brain during the most acute stage of encephalitis. These findings highlight a unique role for neuronal production of chemokines in the initiation of leukocytic infiltration into the infected central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number238
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 4 2017


  • CCL2
  • CCR2
  • Encephalitis
  • Hippocampus
  • Inflammatory monocyte
  • Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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