VGF-derived peptide TLQP-21 modulates microglial function through C3aR1 signaling pathways and reduces neuropathology in 5xFAD mice

Farida El Gaamouch, Mickael Audrain, Wei Jye Lin, Noam Beckmann, Cheng Jiang, Siddharth Hariharan, Peter S. Heeger, Eric E. Schadt, Sam Gandy, Michelle E. Ehrlich, Stephen R. Salton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Multiomic studies by several groups in the NIH Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Alzheimer's Disease (AMP-AD) identified VGF as a major driver of Alzheimer's disease (AD), also finding that reduced VGF levels correlate with mean amyloid plaque density, Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) and Braak scores. VGF-derived peptide TLQP-21 activates the complement C3a receptor-1 (C3aR1), predominantly expressed in the brain on microglia. However, it is unclear how mouse or human TLQP-21, which are not identical, modulate microglial function and/or AD progression. Methods: We performed phagocytic/migration assays and RNA sequencing on BV2 microglial cells and primary microglia isolated from wild-type or C3aR1-null mice following treatment with TLQP-21 or C3a super agonist (C3aSA). Effects of intracerebroventricular TLQP-21 delivery were evaluated in 5xFAD mice, a mouse amyloidosis model of AD. Finally, the human HMC3 microglial cell line was treated with human TLQP-21 to determine whether specific peptide functions are conserved from mouse to human. Results: We demonstrate that TLQP-21 increases motility and phagocytic capacity in murine BV2 microglial cells, and in primary wild-type but not in C3aR1-null murine microglia, which under basal conditions have impaired phagocytic function compared to wild-type. RNA sequencing of primary microglia revealed overlapping transcriptomic changes induced by treatment with TLQP-21 or C3a super agonist (C3aSA). There were no transcriptomic changes in C3aR1-null or wild-type microglia exposed to the mutant peptide TLQP-R21A, which does not activate C3aR1. Most of the C3aSA- and TLQP-21-induced differentially expressed genes were linked to cell migration and proliferation. Intracerebroventricular TLQP-21 administration for 28 days via implanted osmotic pump resulted in a reduction of amyloid plaques and associated dystrophic neurites and restored expression of subsets of Alzheimer-associated microglial genes. Finally, we found that human TLQP-21 activates human microglia in a fashion similar to activation of murine microglia by mouse TLQP-21. Conclusions: These data provide molecular and functional evidence suggesting that mouse and human TLQP-21 modulate microglial function, with potential implications for the progression of AD-related neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalMolecular Neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2020


  • Alzheimer
  • C3aR1
  • Complement
  • Microglia
  • TLQP-21
  • VGF


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