Brain, behavior, and immunity

Systemic inflammation without gliosis mediates cognitive deficits through impaired BDNF expression in bile duct ligation model of hepatic encephalopathy.

PMID 29518527


Chronic liver disease per se induces neuroinflammation that contributes to cognitive deficits in hepatic encephalopathy (HE). However, the processes by which pro-inflammatory molecules result in cognitive impairment still remains unclear. In the present study, a significant increase in the activity of liver function enzymes viz. alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was observed along with increase in plasma ammonia levels after four weeks of bile duct ligation (BDL) in rats suggesting hepatocellular damage. A significant increase was observed in mRNA expression of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) in brain regions and liver of BDL rats. Concomitantly, IL-6, TNF-α and MCP-1 protein levels were also increased in brain regions, liver and serum of BDL rats suggesting the involvement of blood-brain-axis in inflammatory response. However, a significant decrease was observed in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule-1 (Iba-1) expression at transcriptional and translation level in brain of BDL rats. Immunohistochemical and flowcytometric analysis revealed reduced number of GFAP-immunopositive astrocytes and Iba1-immunopositive microglia in the brain regions of BDL rats. Further, a significant decline was observed in cognitive functions in BDL rats assessed using Morris water maze and novel object recognition tests. Expression of pro and mature form of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its upstream transcription element showed significant reduction in brain of BDL rats. Taken together, the results of the present study suggest that systemic inflammation and reduced expression of BDNF and its upstream transcription factor plays a key role in cognitive decline in HE.