Retinal microglial cells (RMCs) play crucial roles in maintaining normal visual functions in a healthy eye. However, the underlying mechanisms of RMCs over-activation manifesting the alterations of sensome profile and inflammation state, which contribute to various retinal neurodegenerative diseases, remain elusive. Here, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine aimed to identify the core set of sensome and pro-inflammatory genes and their regulators using transcriptome and data mining approaches.
The researchers performed paired-end RNA-sequencing in primary microglial cell cultures treated with TNFα/IFNϒ (10 ng/ml for 12 h) and PBS as a control. Gene enrichment analysis and hierarchical clustering for the differentially expressed transcripts highlight functional pathways and network perturbations. They examined overlaps of the mouse microglial gene expression profiles with the data-mined human sensome and pro-inflammatory marker genes. The core sets of sensome and pro-inflammatory genes were selected and predicted for transcription factors (TFs). The identified TFs in RNA-Seq are validated by the quantitative PCR method.
TNFα/IFNϒ induced 668 differentially expressed transcripts in retinal microglial cells relative to the control. Furthermore, gene enrichment analysis and the gene expression network revealed activated microglial genes, biological, molecular and inflammatory pathways. The overlapping analysis of the TNFα/IFNϒ-activated microglia genes and the data-mined human gene sets revealed 22 sensome and 61 pro-inflammatory genes.
Based on network analysis, the researchers determined 10 genes as the core sets of sensome and pro-inflammatory genes and predicted the top ten TFs that regulate them. The SP110, IRF1, FLI1, SP140 (sensome) and RELB, BATF2, NFKB2, TRAFD1, SP100, NFKB1 (inflammation) are differentially expressed between the TNFα/IFNϒ activated and the non-activated microglia which were validated by quantitative PCR. The outcomes indicate that these transcriptional regulators are highly expressed and may regulate the sensome and inflammatory genes of RMCs and switch them to over-activation.
These results comprise a powerful, cross-species functional genomics resource for sensome and inflammation of RMCs, which may provide novel therapeutic approaches to prevent retinal neurodegenerative diseases.