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Event: 188

Key Event Title

A descriptive phrase which defines a discrete biological change that can be measured. More help


Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. More help
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Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. More help
Level of Biological Organization

Organ term

The location/biological environment in which the event takes place.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

The KE, as defined by a set structured ontology terms consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 14 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling).Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signaling).  The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signaling by that receptor).  Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description.  To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons.  If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests.  Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add.  Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf. More help
Process Object Action
brain inflammation microglial cell pathological
brain inflammation astrocyte pathological

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE.Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Binding of antagonist to NMDARs can lead to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
ionotropic glutamatergic receptors and cognition KeyEvent Allie Always (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
Mitochondrial dysfunction and Neurotoxicity KeyEvent Cataia Ives (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
Oxidative stress and Developmental impairment in learning and memory KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Open for citation & comment WPHA/WNT Endorsed
Sars-CoV-2 causes encephalitis KeyEvent Agnes Aggy (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development
tau-AOP KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Co-activation of IP3R and RyR to socio-economic burden through lower IQ KeyEvent Arthur Author (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
elavl3, sox10, mbp induced neuronal effects KeyEvent Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KE.In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens Moderate NCBI
zebrafish Danio rerio Low NCBI
Macaca fascicularis Macaca fascicularis Moderate NCBI

Life Stages

An indication of the the relevant life stage(s) for this KE. More help
Life stage Evidence
During brain development, adulthood and aging High

Sex Applicability

An indication of the the relevant sex for this KE. More help
Term Evidence
Mixed High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. More help

Neuroinflammation or brain inflammation differs from peripheral inflammation in that the vascular response and the role of peripheral bone marrow-derived cells are less conspicuous. The most easily detectable feature of neuroinflammation is activation of microglial cells and astrocytes. It is evidenced by changes in shape, increased expression of certain antigens, and accumulation and proliferation of the glial cells in affected regions (Aschner, 1998; Graeber & Streit, 1990; Monnet-Tschudi et al, 2007; Streit et al, 1999; Kraft and Harry, 2011; Claycomb et al., 2013). Upon stimulation by cytokines or inflammogens (e.g. from pathogens or from damaged neurons), both glial cell types activate inflammatory signalling pathways, which result in increased expression and/or release of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines, eicosanoids, and metalloproteinases (Dong & Benveniste, 2001), as well as in the production of reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen species (RNS) (Brown & Bal-Price, 2003). Different types of activation states are possible for microglia and astrocytes, resulting in pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory signalling and other cellular functions (such as phagocytosis) (Streit et al., 1999; Nakajima and Kohsaka, 2004).

Therefore, neuroinflammation can have both neuroprotective/neuroreparative and neurodegenerative consequences (Carson et al., 2006 ; Monnet-Tschudi et al, 2007; Aguzzi et al., 2013 ; Glass et al., 2010). Under normal physiological conditions, microglial cells scan the nervous system for neuronal integrity (Nimmerjahn et al, 2005) and for invading pathogens (Aloisi, 2001; Kreutzberg, 1995; Kreutzberg, 1996; Rivest, 2009). They are the first type of cell activated (first line of defence), and can subsequently induce astrocyte activation (Falsig, 2008). Two distinct states of microglial activation have been described (Gordon, 2003; Kigerl et al, 2009; Maresz et al, 2008; Mosser & Edwards, 2008; Perego et al; Ponomarev et al, 2005; Moehle and West, 2015): The M1 state is classically triggered by interferon-gamma and/or other pro-inflammatory cytokines, and this state is characterized by increased expression of integrin alpha M (Itgam) and CD86, as well as the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6), and it is mostly associated with neurodegeneration. The M2 state is triggered by IL-4 and IL-13 (Maresz et al, 2008; Perego et al, 2011; Ponomarev et al, 2007) and induces the expression of mannose receptor 1 (MRC1), arginase1 (Arg 1) and Ym1/2; it is involved in repair processes. The activation of astrocytes by microglia-derived cytokines or TLR agonists resembles the microglial M1 state (Falsig 2006). Although classification of the M1/M2 polarization of microglial cells may be considered as a simplification of authentic microglial reaction states (Ransohoff, 2016), a similar polarization of reactive astrocytes has been descibed recently Liddlelow et al., 2017): Interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1alpha), TNF and subcomponent q (C1q) released by activated microglial cells induce A1-reactive astrocytes, which lose the ability to promote neuronal survival, outgrowth, synaptogenesis and phagocytosis and induce the death of neurons and oligodendrocytes.

Neuroinflammation and Brain development

During brain development, microglia are known to play a critical role as shapers of neural circuits, by providing trophic factors and by remodeling and pruning synapses (Rajendran and Paolicelli, 2018). In addition to playing a role in synaptic management, microglia are important for the pruning of dying neurons and in the clearance of debris (Harry, 2013). Microglia seem to affect also processes associated with neuronal proliferation and differentiation (Harry and Kraft, 2012). Similarly to microglia, astrocytes have instructive roles in neurogenesis, gliogenesis, angiogenesis, axonal outgrowth, synaptogenesis, and synaptic pruning (Reemst et al., 2016).

The development-dependent reactivity of microglial cells and astrocytes is not well known. Ischemic insult appears to elicit similar microglial reactivity both during brain development and in adulthood (Baburamani et al, 2014; Leonardo & Pennypacker, 2009). In contrast, treatment with lead acetate was previously shown to result in a more pronounced microglial and astrocyte reactivity in immature 3D rat brain cell cultures as compared to mature ones (Zurich et al, 2002). Astrocyte reactivity was also more pronounced in immature 3D rat brain cell cultures following paraquat exposure, whereas development-dependent differences in the phenotype of reactive microglia were observed (Sandström et al., 2017). This suggests that neuroinflammation is occurring during brain development and may express a different phenotype than in adulthood, and that dysfunction of microglia and astrocyte during brain development could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders and potentially to late-onset neuropathology (Reemst et al., 2016).

Neuroinflammation in relation to COVID19

SARS-CoV-2 patients with moderate and severe COVID-19 presented an elevated plasma levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which is known as biochemical indicator of glial activation (Kanberg et al., 2020).

How It Is Measured or Detected

A description of the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements.These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA). Do not provide detailed protocols. More help

Neuroinflammation, i.e. the activation of glial cells can be measured by quantification of cellular markers (most commonly), or of released mediators (less common). As multiple activation states exist for the two main cell types involved, it is necessary to measure several markers of neuroinflammation:

  • Microglial activation can be detected based on the increased numbers of labeled microglia per volume element of brain tissue (due to increase of binding sites, proliferation, and immigration of cells) or on morphological changes. A specific microglial marker, used across different species, is CD11b. Alternatively various specific carbohydrate structures can be stained by lectins (e.g. IB4). Beyond that, various well-established antibodies are available to detect microglia in mouse tissue (F4/80), phagocytic microglia in rat tissue (ED1) or more generally microglia across species (Iba1). Transgenic mice are available with fluorescent proteins under the control of the CD11b promoter to easily quantify microglia without the need for specific stains.
  • The most frequently used astrocyte marker is GFAP (99% of all studies) (Eng et al., 2000). This protein is highly specific for astrocytes in the brain, and antibodies are available for immunocytochemical detection. In neuroinflammatory brain regions, the stain becomes more prominent, due to an upregulation of the protein, a shape change/proliferation of the cells, and/or better accessibility of the antibody. Various histological quantification approaches can be used. Occasionally, alternative astrocytic markers, such as vimentin of the S100beta protein, have been used for staining of astrocytes (Struzynska et al., 2007). Antibodies for complement component 3 (C3), the most characteristic and highly upregulated marker of A1 neurotoxic reactive astrocytes are commercially available.
  • All immunocytochemical methods can also be applied to cell culture models.
  • In patients, microglial accumulation can be monitored by PET imaging, using [11C]-PK 11195 as a microglial marker (Banati et al., 2002).
  • Activation of glial cells can be assessed in tissue or cell culture models also by quantification of sets of activation markers. This can for instance be done by PCR quantification of inflammatory factors, by measurement of the respective mediators, e.g. by ELISA-related immuno-quantification. Such markers include:
  • Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine expression (IL-1β; TNF-α, Il-6, IL-4); or expression of immunostimmulatory proteins (e.g. MHC-II)
  • Itgam, CD86 expression as markers of M1 microglial phenotype
  • Arg1, MRC1, as markers of M2 microglial phenotype

For descriptions of techniques, see Falsig 2004; Lund 2006 ; Kuegler 2010; Monnet-Tschudi et al., 2011; Sandström et al., 2014; von Tobel et al.,  2014

Regulatory example using the KE

Measurement of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in brain tissue, whose increase is a marker of astrocyte reactivity, is required by the US EPA in rodent toxicity studies for fuel additives (40 CFR 79.67). It has been used on rare occasions for other toxicant evaluations.

Domain of Applicability

A description of the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided).  More help

Neuroinflammation is observed in human, monkey, rat, mouse, and zebrafish, in association with neurodegeneration or following toxicant exposure, or SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus infection. Some references (non-exhaustive list) are given below for illustration:

Human: Vennetti et al., 2006

Monkey (Macaca fascicularis): Charleston et al., 1994, 1996

Rat: Little et al., 2012; Zurich et al., 2002; Eskes et al., 2002

Mouse: Liu et al., 2012

Zebrafish: Xu et al., 2014.


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. More help

Aguzzi, A., Barres, B.A., Bennett, M.L., 2013. Microglia: scapegoat, saboteur, or something else? Science 339(6116), 156-161.

Aloisi, F., 2001. Immune function of microglia. Glia 36, 165-179.

Aschner M (1998) Immune and inflammatory responses in the CNS: modulation by astrocytes. ToxicolLett 103: 283-287

Banati, R. B. (2002). "Visualising microglial activation in vivo." Glia 40: 206-217.   

Baburamani AA, Supramaniam VG, Hagberg H, Mallard C (2014) Microglia toxicity in preterm brain injury. Reprod Toxicol 48: 106-112

Brown GC, Bal-Price A (2003) Inflammatory neurodegeneration mediated by nitric oxide, glutamate, and mitochondria. Mol Neurobiol 27: 325-355

Carson, M.J., Thrash, J.C., Walter, B., 2006. The cellular response in neuroinflammation: The role of leukocytes, microglia and astrocytes in neuronal death and survival. Clin Neurosci Res 6(5), 237-245.

Charleston JS, Body RL, Bolender RP, Mottet NK, Vahter ME, Burbacher TM. 1996. Changes in the number of astrocytes and microglia in the thalamus of the monkey Macaca fascicularis following long-term subclinical methylmercury exposure. NeuroToxicology 17: 127-138.

Charleston JS, Bolender RP, Mottet NK, Body RL, Vahter ME, Burbacher TM. 1994. Increases in the number of reactive glia in the visual cortex of Macaca fascicularis following subclinical long-term methyl mercury exposure. ToxicolApplPharmacol 129: 196-206.

Claycomb, K.I., Johnson, K.M., Winokur, P.N., Sacino, A.V., Crocker, S.J., 2013. Astrocyte regulation of CNS inflammation and remyelination. Brain Sci 3(3), 1109-1127.

Dong Y, Benveniste EN (2001) Immune Function of Astrocytes. Glia 36: 180-190

Eng LF, Ghirnikar RS, Lee YL (2000) Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein: GFAP-Thirty-One Years (1969-2000). NeurochemRes 25: 1439-1451

Eskes C, Honegger P, Juillerat-Jeanneret L, Monnet-Tschudi F. 2002. Microglial reaction induced by noncytotoxic methylmercury treatment leads to neuroprotection via interactions with astrocytes and IL-6 release. Glia 37(1): 43-52.

Falsig J, Latta M, Leist M. Defined inflammatory states in astrocyte cultures correlation with susceptibility towards CD95-driven apoptosis. J Neurochem. 2004  Jan;88(1):181-93.

Falsig J, Pörzgen P, Lund S, Schrattenholz A, Leist M. The inflammatory transcriptome of reactive murine astrocytes and implications for their innate immune function. J Neurochem. 2006 Feb;96(3):893-907.

Falsig J, van Beek J, Hermann C, Leist M. Molecular basis for detection of invading pathogens in the brain. J Neurosci Res. 2008 May 15;86(7):1434-47.

Glass CK, Saijo K, Winner B, Marchetto MC, Gage FH (2010). Mechanisms underlying inflammation in neurodegeneration. Cell. 2010 Mar 19;140(6):918-34.

Gordon S (2003) Alternative activation of macrophages. Nat Rev Immunol 3: 23-35

Graeber MB, Streit WJ (1990) Microglia: immune network in the CNS. Brain Pathol 1: 2-5

Harry GJ and Kraft AD (2012) Microglia in the developing brain: apotential target with lifetime effects. Neurotoxicology. 33(2):191-206.

Harry GJ (2013) Microglia during development and aging. Pharmacology & therapeutics 139: 313-326

Kanberg N, et al. Neurochemical evidence of astrocytic and neuronal injury commonly found in COVID-19. Neurology. 2020 Sep 22;95(12):e1754-e1759

Kigerl KA, Gensel JC, Ankeny DP, Alexander JK, Donnelly DJ, Popovich PG (2009) Identification of two distinct macrophage subsets with divergent effects causing either neurotoxicity or regeneration in the injured mouse spinal cord. J Neurosci 29: 13435-13444

Kraft AD, Harry GJ., Features of microglia and neuroinflammation relevant to environmental exposure and neurotoxicity. International Journal of Environmental research and Public Health., 2011, 8(7): 2980-3018.

Kreutzberg GW (1995) Microglia, the first line of defence in brain pathologies. Arzneimttelforsch 45: 357-360

Kreutzberg GW (1996) Microglia : a sensor for pathological events in the CNS. Trends Neurosci 19: 312-318

Kuegler PB, Zimmer B, Waldmann T, Baudis B, Ilmjärv S, Hescheler J, Gaughwin P, Brundin P, Mundy W, Bal-Price AK, Schrattenholz A, Krause KH, van Thriel C, Rao MS, Kadereit S, Leist M. Markers of murine embryonic and neural stem cells, neurons and astrocytes: reference points for developmental neurotoxicity testing. ALTEX. 2010;27(1):17-42

Leonardo CC, Pennypacker KR (2009) Neuroinflammation and MMPs: potential therapeutic targets in neonatal hypoxic-ischemic injury. J Neuroinflammation 6: 13

Liddelow SA, Guttenplan KA, Clarke LE, Bennett FC, Bohlen CJ, Schirmer L, et al. 2017. Neurotoxic reactive astrocytes are induced by activated microglia. Nature 541(7638): 481-487.

Little AR, Miller DB, Li S, Kashon ML, O'Callaghan JP. 2012. Trimethyltin-induced neurotoxicity: gene expression pathway analysis, q-RT-PCR and immunoblotting reveal early effects associated with hippocampal damage and gliosis. Neurotoxicol Teratol 34(1): 72-82.

Liu Y, Hu J, Wu J, Zhu C, Hui Y, Han Y, et al. 2012. alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated neuroprotection against dopaminergic neuron loss in an MPTP mouse model via inhibition of astrocyte activation. J Neuroinflammation 9: 98.

Lund S, Christensen KV, Hedtjärn M, Mortensen AL, Hagberg H, Falsig J, Hasseldam H, Schrattenholz A, Pörzgen P, Leist M. The dynamics of the LPS triggered inflammatory response of murine microglia under different culture and in vivo conditions. J Neuroimmunol. 2006 Nov;180(1-2):71-87.

Maresz K, Ponomarev ED, Barteneva N, Tan Y, Mann MK, Dittel BN (2008) IL-13 induces the expression of the alternative activation marker Ym1 in a subset of testicular macrophages. J Reprod Immunol 78: 140-148

Moehle MS, West AB (2015) M1 and M2 immune activation in Parkinson's Disease: Foe and ally? Neuroscience 302:59-73 doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.11.018

Monnet-Tschudi F, Zurich MG, Honegger P (2007) Neurotoxicant-induced inflammatory response in three-dimensional brain cell cultures. Hum Exp Toxicol 26: 339-346

Monnet-Tschudi, F., A. Defaux, et al. (2011). "Methods to assess neuroinflammation." Curr Protoc Toxicol Chapter 12: Unit12 19.         

Mosser DM, Edwards JP (2008) Exploring the full spectrum of macrophage activation. Nat Rev Immunol 8: 958-969

Nakajima K, Kohsaka S. 2004. Microglia: Neuroprotective and neurotrophic cells in the central nervous system. Current Drug Targets-Cardiovasc & Haematol Disorders 4: 65-84.

Perego C, Fumagalli S, De Simoni MG (2011) Temporal pattern of expression and colocalization of microglia/macrophage phenotype markers following brain ischemic injury in mice. J Neuroinflammation 8: 174

Ponomarev ED, Maresz K, Tan Y, Dittel BN (2007) CNS-derived interleukin-4 is essential for the regulation of autoimmune inflammation and induces a state of alternative activation in microglial cells. J Neurosci 27: 10714-10721

Ponomarev ED, Shriver LP, Maresz K, Dittel BN (2005) Microglial cell activation and proliferation precedes the onset of CNS autoimmunity. J Neurosci Res 81: 374-389

Rajendran L1Paolicelli RC (2018). Microglia-Mediated Synapse Loss in Alzheimer's Disease. J Neurosci.  38:2911-2919.

Ransohoff RM. 2016. A polarizing question: do M1 and M2 microglia exist? Nat Neurosci 19(8): 987-991.

Reemst KNoctor SCLucassen PJHol EM. (2016) The Indispensable Roles of Microglia and Astrocytes during Brain Development. Front Hum Neurosci.  10:566. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00566

Rivest, S., 2009. Regulation of innate immune responses in the brain. Nat Rev Immunol 9(6), 429-439.

Sandstrom von Tobel, J., D. Zoia, et al. (2014). "Immediate and delayed effects of subchronic Paraquat exposure during an early differentiation stage in 3D-rat brain cell cultures." Toxicol Lett. DOI : 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.02.001

Sandstrom J, Broyer A, Zoia D, et al. (2017a) Potential mechanisms of development-dependent adverse effects of the herbicide paraquat in 3D rat brain cell cultures. Neurotoxicology 60:116-124 doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2017.04.010

Sandstrom J, Eggermann E, Charvet I, et al. (2017b) Development and characterization of a human embryonic stem cell-derived 3D neural tissue model for neurotoxicity testing. Toxicol In Vitro 38:124-135 doi:10.1016/j.tiv.2016.10.001

Streit, W.J., Walter, S.A., Pennell, N.A., 1999. Reactive microgliosis. Progress in Neurobiol. 57, 563-581.

Struzynska L, Dabrowska-Bouta B, Koza K, Sulkowski G (2007) Inflammation-Like Glial Response in Lead-Exposed Immature Rat Brain. Toxicol Sc 95:156-162

Venneti S, Lopresti BJ, Wiley CA. 2006. The peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (Translocator protein 18kDa) in microglia: from pathology to imaging. Prog Neurobiol 80(6): 308-322.

von Tobel, J. S., P. Antinori, et al. (2014). "Repeated exposure to Ochratoxin A generates a neuroinflammatory response, characterized by neurodegenerative M1 microglial phenotype." Neurotoxicology 44C: 61-70.

Xu DP, Zhang K, Zhang ZJ, Sun YW, Guo BJ, Wang YQ, et al. 2014. A novel tetramethylpyrazine bis-nitrone (TN-2) protects against 6-hydroxyldopamine-induced neurotoxicity via modulation of the NF-kappaB and the PKCalpha/PI3-K/Akt pathways. Neurochem Int 78: 76-85.

Zurich M-G, Eskes C, Honegger P, Bérode M, Monnet-Tschudi F. 2002. Maturation-dependent neurotoxicity of lead aceate in vitro: Implication of glial reactions. J Neurosc Res 70: 108-116.