Type I interferon-activated microglia are critical for neuromyelitis optica pathology

Agnieszka Wlodarczyk, Reza Khorooshi, Joanna Marczynska, Inge R. Holtman, Mark Burton, Kirstine Nolling Jensen, Morten Blaabjerg, Morten Meyer, Mads Thomassen, Bart J. L. Eggen, Nasrin Asgari, Trevor Owens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) most frequently mediated by serum autoantibodies against the water channel aquaporin 4, expressed on CNS astrocytes, resulting in primary astrocytopathy. There is no cure for NMO, and treatment with Type I interferon (IFNI)-IFN beta is ineffective or even detrimental. We have previously shown that both NMO lesions and associated microglial activation were reduced in mice lacking the receptor for IFN beta. However, the role of microglia in NMO is not well understood. In this study, we clarify the pathomechanism for IFNI dependence of and the role of microglia in experimental NMO. Transcriptome analysis showed a strong IFNI footprint in affected CNS tissue as well as in microglial subpopulations. Treatment with IFN beta led to exacerbated pathology and further microglial activation as evidenced by expansion of a CD11c(+) subset of microglia. Importantly, depletion of microglia led to suppression of pathology and decrease of IFNI signature genes. Our data show a pro-pathologic role for IFNI-activated microglia in NMO and open new perspectives for microglia-targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-953
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Early online date26-Nov-2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2021


  • CD11c(+) microglia
  • depletion
  • microglia
  • neuromyelitis optica
  • Type I interferon
  • CELL

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