Toll-Like receptors and Dectin-1, a C-type lectin receptor, trigger divergent functions in CNS macrophages

John C. Gensel, Yan Wang, Zhen Guan, Kyle A. Beckwith, Kaitlyn J. Braun, Ping Wei, Dana M. McTigue, Phillip G. Popovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury (SCI) activates macrophages, endowing them with both reparative and pathological functions. The mechanisms responsible for these divergent functions are unknown but are likely controlled through stochastic activation of different macrophage receptor subtypes. Various danger-associated molecular patterns released from dying cells in the injured spinal cord likely activate distinct subtypes of macrophage pattern recognition receptors, including bacterial toll-like receptors (TLRs) and fungal C-type lectin receptors (e.g., dectin-1). To determine the in vivo consequences of activating these receptors, ligands specific for TLR2 or dectin-1 were microinjected, alone or in combination, into intact spinal cord. Both ligands elicit a florid macrophage reaction; however, only dectin-1 activation causes macrophage-mediated demyelination and axonal injury. Coactivating TLR2 reduced the injurious effects of dectin-1 activation. When injected into traumatically injured spinal cord, TLR2 agonists enhance the endogenous macrophage reaction while conferring neuroprotection. Indeed, dieback of axons was reduced, leading to smaller lesion volumes at the peak of the macrophage response. Moreover, the density of NG2+cells expressing vimentin increased in and near lesions that were enriched with TLR2-activated macrophages. In dectin-1-null mutant (knock-out) mice, dieback of corticospinal tract axons also is reduced after SCI. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that the ability of macrophages to create an axon growth-permissive microenvironment or cause neurotoxicity is receptor dependent and it may be possible to exploit this functional dichotomy to enhance CNS repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9966-9976
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 8 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, the authors.


  • Dieback
  • Microglia
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Regeneration
  • TLR2
  • Zymosan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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