Early-life thermal stress mediates long-term alterations in hypothalamic microglia
. GLIA 2021
Stressful environmental events in early life have long-lasting consequences on later stress responses. We previously showed that heat conditioning of 3-day-old chicks during the critical period of heat-response development leads to heat vulnerability later in life. Here we assessed the role of early-life heat stress on the inflammatory response in the chick anterior hypothalamus (AH), focusing on hypothalamic microglia. We identified the microglial cell population in the chick AH using anti-KUL01 and anti-CD45 antibodies. Specific microglial features were also confirmed by expression of their signature genes. Under normal environmental conditions, hypothalamic microglia isolated from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-injected chicks displayed a classical activated proinflammatory profile accompanied by a decreased homeostatic signature, demonstrating similarity of immune response with mammalian microglial cells. In accordance with our previous observations, conditioning of 3-day-old chicks under high ambient temperature decreased the number of newborn cells in the AH, among them microglial precursors. Although heat exposure did not affect microglial cell viability, it had a long-term impact on LPS-induced inflammatory response. Exposure to harsh heat led to heat vulnerability, and attenuated recruitment of peripheral monocytes and T cells into the AH following LPS challenge. Moreover, heat conditioning altered microglial reactivity, manifested as suppressed microglial activation in response to LPS. Innate immune memory developed by heat conditioning might underlie suppression of the microglial response to LPS challenge. We describe alterations in genome-wide CpG methylation profile of hypothalamic microglia, demonstrating probable epigenetic involvement in the reprogramming of microglial function, leading to heat-induced inflammatory cross-tolerance.