Stress and aging act through common mechanisms to elicit neuroinflammatory priming.
Fonken LK, Frank MG, Gaudet AD, Maier SF
Over the course of an animal's lifespan, there is a protracted breakdown in basic homeostatic functions. Stressors (both psychological and physiological) can accelerate this process and compromise multiple homeostatic mechanisms. For example, both stress and aging can modulate neuroinflammatory function and cause a primed phenotype resulting in a heightened neuroinflammatory profile upon immune activation. Microglia, the brain's resident myeloid cell, produce "silent" immune machinery in response to stress and aging that does not cause immediate immune activation; rather, these changes prime the cell for a subsequent immune insult. Primed microglia exhibit a hyperinflammatory response upon immune activation that can exacerbate pathology. In this review, we will explore parallels between stress- and aging-induced neuroinflammatory priming. First, we will provide a background on the basic principles of neuroimmunology. Next, we will discuss evidence that neuroinflammatory responses become primed in the context of both stress and aging. We will also describe cell-specific contributions to neuroinflammatory priming with a focus on microglia. Finally, common mechanisms underlying priming in the context of stress and aging will be discussed: these mechanisms include glucocorticoid signaling; accumulation of danger signals; dis-inhibition of microglia; and breakdown of circadian rhythms. Overall, there are multifarious parallels between stress- and aging-elicited neuroinflammatory priming, suggesting that stress may promote a form of premature aging. Further unravelling mechanisms underlying priming could lead to improved treatments for buffering against stress- and aging-elicited behavioral pathologies.