Interleukin-4 mitigates anxiety-like behavior and loss of neurons and fiber tracts in limbic structures in a microglial PPARγ-dependent manner after traumatic brain injury



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Neurobiology of Disease






Amygdala, Hippocampus, Mood disorders, Neural circuit, PPARγ


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is commonly followed by intractable psychiatric disorders and long-term changes in affect, such as anxiety. The present study sought to investigate the effect of repetitive intranasal delivery of interleukin-4 (IL-4) nanoparticles on affective symptoms after TBI in mice. Adult male C57BL/6 J mice (10–12 weeks of age) were subjected to controlled cortical impact (CCI) and assessed by a battery of neurobehavioral tests up to 35 days after CCI. Neuron numbers were counted in multiple limbic structures, and the integrity of limbic white matter tracts was evaluated using ex vivo diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). As STAT6 is a critical mediator of IL-4-specific transcriptional activation, STAT6 knockout mice were used to explore the role of endogenous IL-4/STAT6 signaling axis in TBI-induced affective disorders. We also employed microglia/macrophage (Mi/Mϕ)-specific PPARγ conditional knockout (mKO) mice to test if Mi/Mϕ PPARγ critically contributes to IL-4-afforded beneficial effects. We observed anxiety-like behaviors up to 35 days after CCI, and these measures were exacerbated in STAT6 KO mice but mitigated by repetitive IL-4 delivery. We discovered that IL-4 protected against neuronal loss in limbic structures, such as the hippocampus and the amygdala, and improved the structural integrity of fiber tracts connecting the hippocampus and amygdala. We also observed that IL-4 boosted a beneficial Mi/Mϕ phenotype (CD206+/Arginase 1+/PPARγ+ triple-positive) in the subacute injury phase, and that the numbers of Mi/Mϕ appositions with neurons were robustly correlated with long-term behavioral performances. Remarkably, PPARγ-mKO completely abolished IL-4-afforded protection. Thus, CCI induces long-term anxiety-like behaviors in mice, but these changes in affect can be attenuated by transnasal IL-4 delivery. IL-4 prevents the long-term loss of neuronal somata and fiber tracts in key limbic structures, perhaps due to a shift in Mi/Mϕ phenotype. Exogenous IL-4 therefore holds promise for future clinical management of mood disturbances following TBI.

Open Access