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Journal of neuroinflammation


Understanding the microglial neuro-immune interactions in the primate brain is vital to developing therapeutics for cortical injury, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury. Our previous work showed that mesenchymal-derived extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) enhanced motor recovery in aged rhesus monkeys following injury of primary motor cortex (M1), by promoting homeostatic ramified microglia, reducing injury-related neuronal hyperexcitability, and enhancing synaptic plasticity in perilesional cortices. A focal lesion was induced via surgical ablation of pial blood vessels over lying the cortical hand representation of M1 of aged female rhesus monkeys, that received intravenous infusions of either vehicle (veh) or EVs 24 h and again 14 days post-injury. The current study used this same cohort to address how these injury- and recovery-associated changes relate to structural and molecular interactions between microglia and neuronal synapses. Using multi-labeling immunohistochemistry, high-resolution microscopy, and gene expression analysis, we quantified co-expression of synaptic markers (VGLUTs, GLURs, VGAT, GABARs), microglia markers (Iba1, P2RY12), and C1q, a complement pathway protein for microglia-mediated synapse phagocytosis, in perilesional M1 and premotor cortices (PMC). We compared this lesion cohort to age-matched non-lesion controls (ctr). Our findings revealed a lesion-related loss of excitatory synapses in perilesional areas, which was ameliorated by EV treatment. Further, we found region-dependent effects of EVs on microglia and C1q expression. In perilesional M1, EV treatment and enhanced functional recovery were associated with increased expression of C1q + hypertrophic microglia, which are thought to have a role in debris-clearance and anti-inflammatory functions. In PMC, EV treatment was associated with decreased C1q + synaptic tagging and microglia-spine contacts. Our results suggest that EV treatment may enhance synaptic plasticity via clearance of acute damage in perilesional M1, and thereby preventing chronic inflammation and excessive synaptic loss in PMC. These mechanisms may act to preserve synaptic cortical motor networks and a balanced normative M1/PMC synaptic function to support functional recovery after injury.

Medical Subject Headings

Female; Animals; Macaca mulatta; Microglia; Complement C1q; Recovery of Function; Extracellular Vesicles

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