Under pathological conditions microglia (resident CNS immune cells) become activated, and produce reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and pro-inflammatory cytokines: molecules that can contribute to axon demyelination and neuron death. Because some microglia functions can exacerbate CNS disorders, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis, and several retinal diseases, controlling their activation might ameliorate immune-mediated CNS disorders. A growing body of evidence now points to ion channels on microglia as contributing to the above neuropathologies. For example, the ATP-gated P2X7 purinergic receptor cation channel is up-regulated around amyloid β-peptide plaques in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimers disease and co-localizes to microglia and astrocytes. Upregulation of the P2X7 receptor subtype on microglia occurs also following spinal cord injury and after ischemia in the cerebral cortex of rats, while P2X7 receptor-like immunoreactivity is increased in activated microglial cells of multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spinal cord. Utilizing neuron/microglia co-cultures as an in vitro model for neuroinflammation, P2X7 receptor activation on microglia appears necessary for microglial cell-mediated injury of neurons. A second example can be found in the chloride intracellular channel 1 (CLIC1), whose expression is related to macrophage activation, undergoes translocation from the cytosol to the plasma membrane (activation) of microglia exposed to amyloid β-peptide, and participates in amyloid β-peptide-induced neurotoxicity through the generation of reactive oxygen species. A final example is the small-conductance Ca2+/calmodulin-activated K+ channel KCNN4/KCa3.1/SK4/IK1, which is highly expressed in rat microglia. Lipopolysaccharide-activated microglia are capable of killing adjacent neurons in co-culture, and show markedly reduced toxicity when treated with an inhibitor of KCa3.1 channels. Moreover, blocking KCa3.1 channels mitigated the neurotoxicity of amyloid β-peptide-stimulated microglia. Excessive microglial cell activation and production of potentially neurotoxic molecules, mediated by ion channels, may thus constitute viable targets for the discovery and development of neurodegenerative disease therapeutics. This chapter will review recent data that reflect the prevailing approaches targeting neuroinflammation as a pathophysiological process contributing to the onset or progression of neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on microglial ion channels and their neuroprotective potential.
Keywords: Microglia, neuroinflammation, neurotoxicity, ATP, purinergic receptors, chloride channels, potassium channels, amyloid, Alzheimer's disease, astroglia, oligodendroglia, Postmortem brain, P2X7, 2 COX-2, CREB, Neuronal Cell Injury, hypoxia, ischemia, HEK29, autoimmune encephalomyelitis, BzATP, White Matter Injury, Transwell, isoform B, CLIC1, KCa3.1/KCNN4, subdural hematoma, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, penumbra, dementia
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