Vitronectin Mitigates Stroke-Increased Neurogenesis Only in Female Mice and Through FAK-Regulated IL-6

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Vitronectin (VTN) is a blood protein produced mainly by the liver. We show that VTN leaks from the bloodstream into the injury site and neighboring subventricular zone (SVZ) following ischemic stroke (middle cerebral artery occlusion, MCAO) in adult mice. MCAO is known to increase neurogenesis after stroke. VTN inhibits this response in females, but not in males, as shown by ~70% more stroke-induced SVZ neurogenesis in female VTN−/− mice at 14 d. In female VTN−/− mice, stroke-induced expression of interleukin-6 (IL-6) at 24 h was reduced in the SVZ. The closely related leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) or pro-neurogenic ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) were not affected. The female-specific effect of VTN on IL-6 expression was not due to sex hormones, as shown by ovariectomy and castration. IL-6 injection next to the SVZ reversed the MCAO-induced increase in neurogenesis seen in VTN−/− mice. Our in vitro and vivo data suggest that plasma VTN activates focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in the SVZ following MCAO, which reduces IL-6 expression in astrocytes but increases it in other cells such as microglia/macrophages. Inducible conditional astrocytic FAK deletion increased MCAO-induced IL-6 expression in females at 24 h and blocked MCAO-induced neurogenesis at 14 d, confirming a key detrimental role of IL-6. Collectively, these data suggest that leakage of VTN into the SVZ reduces the neurogenic response to stroke in female mice by promoting IL-6 expression. Reducing VTN or VTN signaling may be an approach to promote neurogenesis for neuroprotection and cell replacement after stroke in females.