Authors: Olajide O, Iwuanyanwu VU, Adegbola OD, Al-Hindawi AA

PMID: 34709564 PMCID: PMC8551352 DOI: 10.1007/s12035-021-02593-6


In addition to respiratory complications produced by SARS‐CoV‐2, accumulating evidence suggests that some neurological symptoms are associated with the disease caused by this coronavirus. In this study, we investigated the effects of the SARS‐CoV‐2 spike protein S1 stimulation on neuroinflammation in BV-2 microglia. Analyses of culture supernatants revealed an increase in the production of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1β and iNOS/NO. S1 also increased protein levels of phospho-p65 and phospho-IκBα, as well as enhanced DNA binding and transcriptional activity of NF-κB. These effects of the protein were blocked in the presence of BAY11-7082 (1 µM). Exposure of S1 to BV-2 microglia also increased the protein levels of NLRP3 inflammasome and enhanced caspase-1 activity. Increased protein levels of p38 MAPK was observed in BV-2 microglia stimulated with the spike protein S1 (100 ng/ml), an action that was reduced in the presence of SKF 86,002 (1 µM). Results of immunofluorescence microscopy showed an increase in TLR4 protein expression in S1-stimulated BV-2 microglia. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition with TAK 242 (1 µM) and transfection with TLR4 small interfering RNA resulted in significant reduction in TNF-α and IL-6 production in S1-stimulated BV-2 microglia. These results have provided the first evidence demonstrating S1-induced neuroinflammation in BV-2 microglia. We propose that induction of neuroinflammation by this protein in the microglia is mediated through activation of NF-κB and p38 MAPK, possibly as a result of TLR4 activation. These results contribute to our understanding of some of the mechanisms involved in CNS pathologies of SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 spike protein S1, Neuroinflammation, Microglia, NF-κB, TLR4