University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine; Department of Neurobiology; Schafer Lab

Publication Date


Document Type



Cell Biology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms


BACKGROUND: Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with neuroinflammation, neuronal damage, and behavioral alterations including addiction. Alcohol-induced neuroinflammation is characterized by increased expression of proinflammatory cytokines (including TNFalpha, IL-1beta, and CCL2) and microglial activation. We hypothesized chronic alcohol consumption results in peripheral immune cell infiltration to the CNS. Since chemotaxis through the CCL2-CCR2 signaling axis is critical for macrophage recruitment peripherally and centrally, we further hypothesized that blockade of CCL2 signaling using the dual CCR2/5 inhibitor cenicriviroc (CVC) would prevent alcohol-induced CNS infiltration of peripheral macrophages and alter the neuroinflammatory state in the brain after chronic alcohol consumption.

METHODS: C57BL/6J female mice were fed an isocaloric or 5% (v/v) ethanol Lieber DeCarli diet for 6 weeks. Some mice received daily injections of CVC. Microglia and infiltrating macrophages were characterized and quantified by flow cytometry and visualized using CX3CR1(eGFP/+) CCR2(RFP/+) reporter mice. The effect of ethanol and CVC treatment on the expression of inflammatory genes was evaluated in various regions of the brain, using a Nanostring nCounter inflammation panel. Microglia activation was analyzed by immunofluorescence. CVC-treated and untreated mice were presented with the two-bottle choice test.

RESULTS: Chronic alcohol consumption induced microglia activation and peripheral macrophage infiltration in the CNS, particularly in the hippocampus. Treatment with CVC abrogated ethanol-induced recruitment of peripheral macrophages and partially reversed microglia activation. Furthermore, the expression of proinflammatory markers was upregulated by chronic alcohol consumption in various regions of the brain, including the cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. Inhibition of CCR2/5 decreased alcohol-mediated expression of inflammatory markers. Finally, microglia function was impaired by chronic alcohol consumption and restored by CVC treatment. CVC treatment did not change the ethanol consumption or preference of mice in the two-bottle choice test.

CONCLUSIONS: Together, our data establish that chronic alcohol consumption promotes the recruitment of peripheral macrophages into the CNS and microglia alterations through the CCR2/5 axis. Therefore, further exploration of the CCR2/5 axis as a modulator of neuroinflammation may offer a potential therapeutic approach for the treatment of alcohol-associated neuroinflammation.


Alcohol, Cytokines, Macrophage, Microglia, Neuroinflammation

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

DOI of Published Version



Lowe PP, Morel C, Ambade A, Iracheta-Vellve A, Kwiatkowski E, Satishchandran A, Furi I, Cho Y, Gyongyosi B, Catalano D, Lefebvre E, Fischer L, Seyedkazemi S, Schafer DP, Szabo G. Chronic alcohol-induced neuroinflammation involves CCR2/5-dependent peripheral macrophage infiltration and microglia alterations. J Neuroinflammation. 2020 Oct 9;17(1):296. doi: 10.1186/s12974-020-01972-5. PMID: 33036616; PMCID: PMC7547498. Link to article on publisher's site

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Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of neuroinflammation

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.