Brain endothelial CXCL12 attracts protective natural killer cells during ischemic stroke

Shuaiwei Wang, Lauriane de Fabritus, Praveen Ashok Kumar, Yves Werner, Minglu Ma, Dan Li, Carole Siret, Milesa Simic, Bin Li, Yann M. Kerdiles, Lei Hou, Ralf Stumm, Serge A. van de Pavert
J Neuroinflammation. 2023-01-11; 20(1):
DOI: 10.1186/s12974-023-02689-x

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The innate lymphoid cell (ILC) family consists of NK cells, ILC type 1, 2, 3 and lymphoid tissue inducer cells. They have been shown to play important roles in homeostasis and immune responses and are generally considered tissue resident. Not much is known about the presence of ILC members within the central nervous system and whether they are tissue resident in this organ too. Therefore, we studied the presence of all ILC members within the central nervous system and after ischemic brain insult.

We used the photothrombotic ischemic lesion method to induce ischemic lesions within the mouse brain. Using whole-mount immunofluorescence imaging, we established that the ILCs were present at the rim of the lesion. We quantified the increase of all ILC members at different time-points after the ischemic lesion induction by flow cytometry. Their migration route via chemokine CXCL12 was studied by using different genetic mouse models, in which we induced deletion of Cxcl12 within the blood–brain barrier endothelium, or its receptor, Cxcr4, in the ILCs. The functional role of the ILCs was subsequently established using the beam-walk sensorimotor test.

Here, we report that ILCs are not resident within the mouse brain parenchyma during steady-state conditions, but are attracted towards the ischemic stroke. Specifically, we identify NK cells, ILC1s, ILC2s and ILC3s within the lesion, the highest influx being observed for NK cells and ILC1s. We further show that CXCL12 expressed at the blood–brain barrier is essential for NK cells and NKp46+ ILC3s to migrate toward the lesion. Complementary, Cxcr4-deficiency in NK cells prevents NK cells from entering the infarct area. Lack of NK cell migration results in a higher neurological deficit in the beam-walk sensorimotor test.

This study establishes the lack of ILCs in the mouse central nervous system at steady-state and their migration towards an ischemic brain lesion. Our data show a role for blood–brain barrier-derived CXCL12 in attracting protective NK cells to ischemic brain lesions and identifies a new CXCL12/CXCR4-mediated component of the innate immune response to stroke.

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus