TMEM119 as a specific marker of microglia reaction in traumatic brain injury in postmortem examination

Simone Bohnert, Anja Seiffert, Stefanie Trella, Michael Bohnert, Luitpold Distel, Benjamin Ondruschka, Camelia-Maria Monoranu
International Journal of Legal Medicine 2020 July 27
The aim of the present study was a refined analysis of neuroinflammation including TMEM119 as a useful microglia-specific marker in forensic assessments of traumatic causes of death, e.g., traumatic brain injury (TBI). Human brain tissue samples were obtained from autopsies and divided into cases with lethal TBI (n = 25) and subdivided into three groups according to their trauma survival time and compared with an age-, gender-, and postmortem interval-matched cohort of sudden cardiovascular fatalities as controls (n = 23). Brain tissue samples next to cortex contusions and surrounding white matter as well as samples of the ipsilateral uninjured brain stem and cerebellum were collected and stained immunohistochemically with antibodies against TMEM119, CD206, and CCR2. We could document the highest number of TMEM119-positive cells in acute TBI death with highly significant differences to the control numbers. CCR2-positive monocytes showed a significantly higher cell count in the cortex samples of TBI cases than in the controls with an increasing number of immunopositive cells over time. The number of CD206-positive M2 microglial cells increased survival time-dependent. After 3 days of survival, the cell number increased significantly in all four regions investigated compared with controls. In sum, we validate a specific and robustly expressed as well as fast reacting microglia marker, TMEM119, which distinguishes microglia from resident and infiltrating macrophages and thus offers a great potential for the estimation of the minimum survival time after TBI.

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