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Research Article

CD36 Participates in PrP-Induced Activation of Microglia


Microglial activation is a characteristic feature of the pathogenesis of prion diseases. The molecular mechanisms that underlie prion-induced microglial activation are not very well understood. In the present study, we investigated the role of the class B scavenger receptor CD36 in microglial activation induced by neurotoxic prion protein (PrP) fragment 106–126 (PrP106–126). We first examined the time course of CD36 mRNA expression upon exposure to PrP106–126 in BV2 microglia. We then analyzed different parameters of microglial activation in PrP106–126-treated cells in the presence or not of anti-CD36 monoclonal antibody (mAb). The cells were first incubated for 1 h with CD36 monoclonal antibody to block the CD36 receptor, and were then treated with neurotoxic prion peptides PrP106–126. The results showed that PrP106–126 treatment led to a rapid yet transitory increase in the mRNA expression of CD36, upregulated mRNA and protein levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α), increased iNOS expression and nitric oxide (NO) production, stimulated the activation of NF-κB and caspase-1, and elevated Fyn activity. The blockade of CD36 had no effect on PrP106–126-stimulated NF-κB activation and TNF-α protein release, abrogated the PrP106–126-induced iNOS stimulation, downregulated IL-1β and IL-6 expression at both mRNA and protein levels as well as TNF-α mRNA expression, decreased NO production and Fyn phosphorylation, reduced caspase-1 cleavage induced by moderate PrP106–126 –treatment, but had no effect on caspase-1 activation after treatment with a high concentration of PrP106–126. Together, these results suggest that CD36 is involved in PrP106–126-induced microglial activation and that the participation of CD36 in the interaction between PrP106–126 and microglia may be mediated by Src tyrosine kinases. Our findings provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the activation of microglia by neurotoxic prion peptides and open perspectives for new therapeutic strategies for prion diseases by modulation of CD36 signaling.