The immune cell profile of the developing rat brain

Erin L. Reinl, Alexa C. Blanchard, Emily L. Graham, Serena W. Edwards, Christie V. Dionisos, Margaret M. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Little is known about the peripheral immune cell (PIC) profile of the developing brain despite growing appreciation for these cells in the mature nervous system. To address this gap, the PIC profile, defined as which cells are present, where they are located, and for how long, was examined in the developing rat using spectral flow cytometry. Select regions of the rat brain (cerebellum, hippocampus, and hypothalamus) were examined at embryonic day 20, and postnatal days 0, 7 and 16. At their peak (E20), PICs were most abundant in the cerebellum, then the hippocampus and hypothalamus. Within the PIC pool, monocytes were most prevalent in all regions and time points, and shifted from being majority classical at E20 to non-classical by PN7. T cells increased over time, and shifted from majority cytotoxic to T-helper cells by PN7. This suggests the PIC profile transitions from reactive to adaptive and surveilling in the second postnatal week. NK cells and mast cells increased temporarily, and mast cells were restricted to the hippocampus and hypothalamus, suggesting they may play a specific role in the development of those regions. Mimicking a viral infection by administration of Poly I:C increased the influx of PICs into the neonatal brain, particularly of NK cells and in the case of males only, non-classical monocytes. This work provides a map for researchers as they study immune cell contributions to healthy and pathological brain development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-226
Number of pages29
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Development
  • Flow cytometry
  • Immune profile
  • Mast cells
  • Neuroimmune
  • Rat


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