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Human in vivo neuroimaging to detect reprogramming of the cerebral immune response following repeated systemic inflammation

Peters van Ton, AM;Leijte, GP;Franssen, GM;Bruse, N;Booij, J;Doorduin, J;Rijpkema, M;Kox, M;Abdo, WF;Pickkers, P;

Despite increasing evidence that immune training within the brain may affect the clinical course of neuropsychiatric diseases, data on cerebral immune tolerance are scarce. This study in healthy volunteers examined the trajectory of the immune response systemically and within the brain following repeated lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenges. Five young males underwent experimental human endotoxemia (intravenous administration of 2 ng/kg LPS) twice with a 7-day interval. The systemic immune response was assessed by measuring plasma cytokine levels. Four positron emission tomography (PET) examinations, using the translocator protein (TSPO) ligand 18F-DPA-714, were performed in each participant, to assess brain immune cell activation prior to and 5 hours after both LPS challenges. The first LPS challenge caused a profound systemic inflammatory response and resulted in a 53% [95%CI 36-71%] increase in global cerebral 18F-DPA-714 binding (p < 0.0001). Six days after the first challenge, 18F-DPA-714 binding had returned to baseline levels (p = 0.399). While the second LPS challenge resulted in a less pronounced systemic inflammatory response (i.e. 77 ± 14% decrease in IL-6 compared to the first challenge), cerebral inflammation was not attenuated, but decreased below baseline, illustrated by a diffuse reduction of cerebral 18F-DPA-714 binding (-38% [95%CI -47 to -28%], p < 0.0001). Our findings constitute evidence for in vivo immunological reprogramming in the brain following a second inflammatory insult in healthy volunteers, which could represent a neuroprotective mechanism. These results pave the way for further studies on immunotolerance in the brain in patients with systemic inflammation-induced cerebral dysfunction.