Stroke, a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US, is in need of therapeutics that reduce damage and promote recovery. Post-stroke inflammation is a critical determinant of damage and recovery and is thus a promising therapeutic target. Mast cells (MCs), which play critical roles in the development of inflammatory processes in other pathologies, were recently ascribed a role in the exacerbation of post-stroke brain inflammation and damage. This suggests that MCs could be key determinants of stroke-induced inflammation and hence are an attractive therapeutic target. The primary focus of this proposal is to elucidate the mechanism of action of mast cells in exacerbating stroke pathology, with the long-term goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies for stroke. Our overall hypothesis is that mast cells residing in the meninges are key effectors of stroke pathology. This is tested in Aim 1 using two different approaches. The gain-of-function approach (Aim 1a) uses a "mast cell knock-in mouse" model in which the MC-deficiency of genetically MC- deficient mice is selectively repaired by engraftment of in vitro grown mast cells. Direct engraftment of MCs into the meninges of these MC-deficient mice will determine the involvement of meningeal-located MCs in stroke pathology. This is complemented by the loss-of-function approach (Aim1b) where meningeal MCs are depleted by meningeal injection of diphtheria toxin (DT) into a novel mouse model that selectively expresses the DT receptor on MCs. Together, innovative use of these mouse models enables us to determine if meningeal MCs are necessary and sufficient for the detrimental effects of MCs after stroke.
Aim 2 addresses the molecular mechanism of action of MCs using the mast cell knock-in mouse model. Through engraftment of MCs from various receptor knock-out mice we will investigate the mechanism of meningeal MC activation (Aim 2a), and by engraftment of MCs from cytokine knock-out mice we will identify mast cell-secreted factors important for the downstream effects of MCs on stroke pathology (Aim 2b). Identifying a crucial role for meningeal MCs after stroke will highlight the importance o the meninges in modulating brain pathology. As the meninges are relatively accessible (e.g., by intrathecal injection) this concept could potentially present a new strategy for stroke therapeutic that may overcome the hurdle of targeting drugs to the injured brain and reduce unwanted side effects of systemic immunomodulation. Furthermore, by establishing the mechanism of action of MCs we begin to delineate the molecular pathways involved in modulating the response to stroke, an essential step to finding novel therapeutic targets. Together, our proposed studies address significant gaps in the understanding of post-stroke inflammatory events that contribute to stroke pathology and may identify new strategies for stroke therapeutics.
Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US, with stroke-induced inflammatory events playing a key role in the evolution of brain injury. Understanding these inflammatory events is critical to developing effective treatments for stroke. With this as the long term goal, we will investigate mast cells, a novel aspect of post-stroke inflammation known to play critical roles in the development of inflammatory processes in other diseases.
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