At focal CNS injury sites, several cytokines accumulate, including ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β). Additionally, the CNTF alpha receptor is induced on astrocytes, establishing an autocrine/paracrine loop. How astrocyte function is altered as a result of CNTF stimulation remains incompletely characterized. Here, we demonstrate that direct injection of CNTF into the spinal cord increases GFAP expression and astroglial size and that primary cultures of spinal cord astrocytes treated with CNTF, IL-1β, or leukemia inhibitory factor exhibit nuclear hypertrophy comparable to that observed in vivo. Using a coculture bioassay, we further demonstrate that CNTF treatment of astrocytes increases their ability to support ChAT+ ventral spinal cord neurons (presumably motor neurons) more than twofold compared with untreated astrocytes. Also, the complexity of neurites was significantly increased in neurons cultured with CNTF-treated astrocytes compared with untreated astrocytes. RT-PCR analysis demonstrated that CNTF increased levels of FGF-2 and nerve growth factor (NGF) mRNA and that IL-1β increased NGF and hepatocyte growth factor mRNA levels. Furthermore, both CNTF and IL-1β stimulated the release of FGF-2 from cultured spinal cord astrocytes. These findings demonstrate that cytokine-activated astrocytes better support CNS neuron survival via the production of neurotrophic molecules. We also show that CNTF synergizes with FGF-2, but not epidermal growth factor, to promote DNA synthesis in spinal cord astrocyte cultures. The significance of these findings is discussed by presenting a new model depicting the sequential activation of astrocytes by cytokines and growth factors in the context of CNS injury and repair.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience