Background: Insufficient clearance by microglial cells, prevalent in several neurological conditions and diseases, is intricately intertwined with MFG-E8 expression and inflammatory responses. Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure can elicit the pro-inflammatory activation and may also trigger an alteration of the clearance function in microglial cells. Curcumin has important roles in the anti-inflammatory and phagocytic process. Here, we evaluated the ability of curcumin to ameliorate the phagocytic ability of EMF-exposed microglial cells (N9 cells) and documented relative pathways.
Methods: N9 cells were pretreated with or without recombinant murine MFG-E8 (rmMFG-E8), curcumin and an antibody of toll-like receptor 4 (anti-TLR4), and subsequently treated with EMF or a sham exposure. Their phagocytic ability was evaluated using phosphatidylserine-containing fluorescent bioparticles. The pro-inflammatory activation of microglia was assessed via CD11b immunoreactivity and the production of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and nitric oxide (NO) via the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or the Griess test. We evaluated the ability of curcumin to ameliorate the phagocytic ability of EMF-exposed N9 cells, including checking the expression of MFG-E8, αvβ3 integrin, TLR4, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) using Western blotting.
Results: EMF exposure dramatically enhanced the expression of CD11b and depressed the phagocytic ability of N9 cells. rmMFG-E8 could clearly ameliorate the phagocytic ability of N9 cells after EMF exposure. We also found that EMF exposure significantly increased the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β) and the production of NO; however, these increases were efficiently chilled by the addition of curcumin to the culture medium. This reduction led to the amelioration of the phagocytic ability of EMF-exposed N9 cells. Western blot analysis revealed that curcumin and naloxone restored the expression of MFG-E8 but had no effect on TLR4 and cytosolic STAT3. Moreover, curcumin significantly reduced the expression of NF-κB p65 in nuclei and phospho-STAT3 (p-STAT3) in cytosols and nuclei.
Conclusions: This study indicates that curcumin ameliorates the depressed MFG-E8 expression and the attenuated phagocytic ability of EMF-exposed N9 cells, which is attributable to the inhibition of the pro-inflammatory response through the NF-κB and STAT3 pathways.