Toward discovering a novel family of peptides targeting neuroinflammatory states of brain microglia and astrocytes

K. M. Koss, T. Son, C. Li, Y. Hao, J. Cao, M. A. Churchward, Z. J. Zhang, J. A. Wertheim, R. Derda, K. G. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microglia are immune-derived cells critical to the development and healthy function of the brain and spinal cord, yet are implicated in the active pathology of many neuropsychiatric disorders. A range of functional phenotypes associated with the healthy brain or disease states has been suggested from in vivo work and were modeled in vitro as surveying, reactive, and primed sub-types of primary rat microglia and mixed microglia/astrocytes. It was hypothesized that the biomolecular profile of these cells undergoes a phenotypical change as well, and these functional phenotypes were explored for potential novel peptide binders using a custom 7 amino acid-presenting M13 phage library (SX7) to identify unique peptides that bind differentially to these respective cell types. Surveying glia were untreated, reactive were induced with a lipopolysaccharide treatment, recovery was modeled with a potent anti-inflammatory treatment dexamethasone, and priming was determined by subsequently challenging the cells with interferon gamma. Microglial function was profiled by determining the secretion of cytokines and nitric oxide, and expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase. After incubation with the SX7 phage library, populations of SX7-positive microglia and/or astrocytes were collected using fluorescence-activated cell sorting, SX7 phage was amplified in Escherichia coli culture, and phage DNA was sequenced via next-generation sequencing. Binding validation was done with synthesized peptides via in-cell westerns. Fifty-eight unique peptides were discovered, and their potential functions were assessed using a basic local alignment search tool. Peptides potentially originated from proteins ranging in function from a variety of supportive glial roles, including synapse support and pruning, to inflammatory incitement including cytokine and interleukin activation, and potential regulation in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • astrocyte
  • glia
  • microglia
  • neuroinflammation
  • peptide
  • phage display

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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