Background: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor activated by environmental agonists and dietary tryptophan metabolites for the immune response and cell cycle regulation. Emerging evidence suggests that AHR activation after acute stroke may play a role in brain ischemic injury. However, whether AHR activation alters poststroke astrogliosis and neurogenesis remains unknown. Methods: We adopted conditional knockout of AHR from nestin-expressing neural stem/progenitor cells (AHRcKO) and wild-type (WT) mice in the permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model. WT mice were treated with either vehicle or the AHR antagonist 6,2′,4′-trimethoxyflavone (TMF, 5 mg/kg/day) intraperitoneally. The animals were examined at 2 and 7 days after MCAO. Results: The AHR signaling pathway was significantly upregulated after stroke. Both TMF-treated WT and AHRcKO mice showed significantly decreased infarct volume, improved sensorimotor, and nonspatial working memory functions compared with their respective controls. AHR immunoreactivities were increased predominantly in activated microglia and astrocytes after MCAO compared with the normal WT controls. The TMF-treated WT and AHRcKO mice demonstrated significant amelioration of astrogliosis and microgliosis. Interestingly, these mice also showed augmentation of neural progenitor cell proliferation at the ipsilesional neurogenic subventricular zone (SVZ) and the hippocampal subgranular zone. At the peri-infarct cortex, the ipsilesional SVZ/striatum, and the hippocampus, both the TMF-treated and AHRcKO mice demonstrated downregulated IL-1β, IL-6, IFN-γ, CXCL1, and S100β, and concomitantly upregulated Neurogenin 2 and Neurogenin 1. Conclusion: Neural cell-specific AHR activation following acute ischemic stroke increased astrogliosis and suppressed neurogenesis in adult mice. AHR inhibition in acute stroke may potentially benefit functional outcomes likely through reducing proinflammatory gliosis and preserving neurogenesis.
- Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
- Neural stem cells