Microglia initiate central nervous system innate and adaptive immune responses through multiple TLRs.
Microglia are the resident macrophage-like population in the CNS. Microglia remain quiescent until injury or infection activates the cells to perform effector inflammatory and APC functions. Our previous studies have shown that microglia infected with a neurotropic strain of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus secreted innate immune cytokines and up-regulated costimulatory molecules and MHC class II, enabling the cells to present viral and myelin Ags to CD4+ T cells. Recently, TLRs have been shown to recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns and initiate innate immune responses upon interaction with infectious agents. We examined TLR expression on brain microglia and their functional responses upon stimulation with various TLR agonists. We report that mouse microglia express mRNA for all of the recently identified TLRs, TLR1-9, used for recognition of bacterial and viral molecular patterns. Furthermore, stimulation of quiescent microglia with various TLR agonists, including LPS (TLR4), peptidoglycan (TLR2), polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (TLR3), CpG DNA (TLR9), and infection with viable Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus, activated the cells to up-regulate unique patterns of innate and effector immune cytokines and chemokines at the mRNA and protein levels. In addition, TLR stimulation activated up-regulation of MHC class II and costimulatory molecules, enabling the microglia to efficiently present myelin Ags to CD4+ T cells. Thus, microglia appear to be a unique and important component of both the innate and adaptive immune response, providing the CNS with a means to rapidly and efficiently respond to a wide variety of pathogens.