Inflammatory macrophage phenotype in BTBR T+tf/J mice

Charity E. Onore, Milo Careaga, Brooke A. Babineau, Jared J. Schwartzer, Robert F Berman, Paul Ashwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Although autism is a behaviorally defined disorder, many studies report an association with increased pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Recent characterization of the BTBR T+tf/J (BTBR) inbred mouse strain has revealed several behavioral characteristics including social deficits, repetitive behavior, and atypical vocalizations which may be relevant to autism. We therefore hypothesized that, asocial BTBR mice, which exhibit autism-like behaviors, may have an inflammatory immune profile similar to that observed in children with autism. The objectives of this study were to characterize the myeloid immune profile of BTBR mice and to explore their associations with autism-relevant behaviors. C57BL/6J (C57) mice and BTBR mice were tested for social interest and repetitive self-grooming behavior. Cytokine production was measured in bone-marrow derived macrophages incubated for 24 h in either growth media alone, LPS, IL-4/LPS, or IFNγ/LPS to ascertain any M1/M2 skewing. After LPS stimulation, BTBR macrophages produced higher levels of IL-6, MCP-1, and MIP-1a and lower IL-10 (p < 0.01) than C57 mice, suggesting an exaggerated inflammatory profile. After exposure to IL-4/LPS BTBR macrophages produced less IL-10 (p < 0.01) than C57 macrophages and more IL-12p40 (p < 0.01) suggesting poor M2 polarization. Levels of IL-12(p70) (p < 0.05) were higher in BTBR macrophages after IFNγ/LPS stimulation, suggesting enhanced M1 polarization. We further observed a positive correlation between grooming frequency, and production of IL-12(p40), IL-12p70, IL-6, and TNFa (p < 0.05) after treatment with IFNγ/LPS across both strains. Collectively, these data suggest that the asocial BTBR mouse strain exhibits a more inflammatory, or M1, macrophage profile in comparison to the social C57 strain. We have further demonstrated a relationship between this relative increase in inflammation and repetitive grooming behavior, which may have relevance to repetitive and stereotyped behavior of autism

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number7 SEP
StatePublished - 2013


  • Autism
  • Behavior
  • BTBR
  • Immune system
  • Inflammation
  • M1
  • M2
  • Macrophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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