DOI: 10.1002/alz.080201 ISSN: 1552-5260

Aging drives chronic exacerbated interactions of disease associated microglia and CD8+ T cells following traumatic brain injury

Jessica Gebhardt, Clair Ashley, Ben Wendell, Danielle S. Goulding, James Schwartz, Josh M. Morganti
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Aged individuals are highly susceptible to adverse outcomes following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Despite worsened correlates related to functional outcomes following injury, as well as increased likelihood to acquire a TBI, our understanding of the cellular mechanisms governing the poorer outcomes associated with aged individuals post‐TBI are not well‐characterized.


In the current study, we examined microglial heterogeneity following TBI, in our mouse model of focal TBI across both acute (3d) and chronic (28d) intervals in both young (4m) and aged (18m) male C57B6J mice. At the appropriate interval, brains were collected and processed for single cell RNAseq (scRNAseq), spatial transcriptomics, and histology. A follow up study examining the interaction of TBI and aging upon T cell receptor (TCR) sequences was utilized to examine clonal expansion and lymphocyte heterogeneity in young and aged mice chronically after TBI.


Our findings demonstrate that TBI drives diverse transcriptional heterogeneity of microglia in both the young and aged condition. Acutely at 3 days post injury an inflammatory response is seen both in the young and aged mice. However, chronically at 28 days post injury, the microglia from young animals more closely resemble their pre‐injury (i.e. Sham) phenotypes, in comparison to the aged brain where there is a persistence of Apoe‐linked ‘DAM‐like’ microglial response. Inferential analyses point toward these aging‐related chronic populations of microglia as having distinct transcription factor utilization and metabolic pathway enrichment, including Hif1α upregulation and interferon gamma (INFγ) signaling. Furthermore, linkage with chronically accumulated CD8+ T cells and interferon signaling may underlie these phenotypes. Using single cell TCR sequencing, we demonstrate stark contrasts in the responses due to aging and TBI in the clonal expansion of infiltrated CD8+ T cells chronically following TBI.


Our studies demonstrate that aging is a centrally associated with the persistence of chronically reactive microglia in the brain and that these responses are linked, in part, with the protracted accumulation of CD8+ T cells following TBI.

More from our Archive