Neuroinflammation Plays a Critical Role in Cerebral Cavernous Malformation Disease

Catherine Chinhchu Lai, Bliss Nelsen, Eduardo Frias-Anaya, Helios Gallego-Gutierrez, Marco Orecchioni, Victoria Herrera, Elan Ortiz, Hao Sun, Omar A. Mesarwi, Klaus Ley, Brendan Gongol, Miguel Alejandro Lopez-Ramirez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are neurovascular lesions caused by loss of function mutations in 1 of 3 genes, including KRIT1 (CCM1), CCM2, and PDCD10 (CCM3). CCMs affect ≈1 out of 200 children and adults, and no pharmacologic therapy is available. CCM lesion count, size, and aggressiveness vary widely among patients of similar ages with the same mutation or even within members of the same family. However, what determines the transition from quiescent lesions into mature and active (aggressive) CCM lesions is unknown. Methods: We use genetic, RNA-sequencing, histology, flow cytometry, and imaging techniques to report the interaction between CCM endothelium, astrocytes, leukocytes, microglia/macrophages, neutrophils (CCM endothelium, astrocytes, leukocytes, microglia/macrophages, neutrophils interaction) during the pathogenesis of CCMs in the brain tissue. Results: Expression profile of astrocytes in adult mouse brains using translated mRNAs obtained from the purification of EGFP (enhanced green fluorescent protein)-tagged ribosomes (Aldh1l1-EGFP/Rpl10a) in the presence or absence of CCM lesions (Slco1c1-iCreERT2;Pdcd10fl/fl; Pdcd10BECKO) identifies a novel gene signature for neuroinflammatory astrocytes. CCM-induced reactive astrocytes have a neuroinflammatory capacity by expressing genes involved in angiogenesis, chemotaxis, hypoxia signaling, and inflammation. RNA-sequencing analysis on RNA isolated from brain endothelial cells in chronic Pdcd10BECKOmice (CCM endothelium), identified crucial genes involved in recruiting inflammatory cells and thrombus formation through chemotaxis and coagulation pathways. In addition, CCM endothelium was associated with increased expression of Nlrp3 and Il1b. Pharmacological inhibition of NLRP3 (NOD [nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain]-LRR [leucine-rich repeat]- and pyrin domain-containing protein 3) significantly decreased inflammasome activity as assessed by quantification of a fluorescent indicator of caspase-1 activity (FAM-FLICA [carboxyfluorescein-fluorochrome-labeled inhibitors of caspases] caspase-1) in brain endothelial cells from Pdcd10BECKOin chronic stage. Importantly, our results support the hypothesis of the crosstalk between astrocytes and CCM endothelium that can trigger recruitment of inflammatory cells arising from brain parenchyma (microglia) and the peripheral immune system (leukocytes) into mature active CCM lesions that propagate lesion growth, immunothrombosis, and bleedings. Unexpectedly, partial or total loss of brain endothelial NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) activity (using Ikkbfl/flmice) in chronic Pdcd10BECKOmice does not prevent lesion genesis or neuroinflammation. Instead, this resulted in a trend increase in the number of lesions and immunothrombosis, suggesting that therapeutic approaches designed to target inflammation through endothelial NF-κB inhibition may contribute to detrimental side effects. Conclusions: Our study reveals previously unknown links between neuroinflammatory astrocytes and inflamed CCM endothelium as contributors that trigger leukocyte recruitment and precipitate immunothrombosis in CCM lesions. However, therapeutic approaches targeting brain endothelial NF-κB activity may contribute to detrimental side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-925
Number of pages17
JournalCirculation research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 11 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • astrocytes
  • caspases
  • cerebral cavernous malformations
  • endothelial cells
  • inflammasomes
  • inflammation
  • macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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