Leveraging single-cell RNA sequencing to unravel the impact of aging on stroke recovery mechanisms in mice



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America








angiogenesis, ischemic stroke, myeloid cells, oligodendrogenesis, stroke therapy


Aging compromises the repair and regrowth of brain vasculature and white matter during stroke recovery, but the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. To understand how aging jeopardizes brain tissue repair after stroke, we performed single-cell transcriptomic profiling of young adult and aged mouse brains at acute (3 d) and chronic (14 d) stages after ischemic injury, focusing a priori on the expression of angiogenesis- and oligodendrogenesis-related genes. We identified unique subsets of endothelial cells (ECs) and oligodendrocyte (OL) progenitors in proangiogenesis and pro-oligodendrogenesis phenotypic states 3 d after stroke in young mice. However, this early prorepair transcriptomic reprogramming was negligible in aged stroke mice, consistent with the impairment of angiogenesis and oligodendrogenesis observed during the chronic injury stages after ischemia. In the stroke brain, microglia and macrophages (MG/MΦ) may drive angiogenesis and oligodendrogenesis through a paracrine mechanism. However, this reparative cell–cell cross talk between MG/MΦ and ECs or OLs is impeded in aged brains. In support of these findings, permanent depletion of MG/MΦ via antagonism of the colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor resulted in remarkably poor neurological recovery and loss of poststroke angiogenesis and oligodendrogenesis. Finally, transplantation of MG/MΦ from young, but not aged, mouse brains into the cerebral cortices of aged stroke mice partially restored angiogenesis and oligodendrogenesis and rejuvenated sensorimotor function and spatial learning and memory. Together, these data reveal fundamental mechanisms underlying the age-related decay in brain repair and highlight MG/MΦ as effective targets for promoting stroke recovery.

Open Access