Background: Mutations in the three-prime repair exonuclease 1 (TREX1) gene have been associated with neurological diseases, including Retinal Vasculopathy with Cerebral Leukoencephalopathy (RVCL). However, the endogenous expression of TREX1 in human brain has not been studied. Methods: We produced a rabbit polyclonal antibody (pAb) to TREX1 to characterize TREX1 by Western blotting (WB) of cell lysates from normal controls and subjects carrying an RVCL frame-shift mutation. Dual staining was performed to determine cell types expressing TREX1 in human brain tissue. TREX1 distribution in human brain was further evaluated by immunohistochemical analyses of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded samples from normal controls and patients with RVCL and ischemic stroke. Results: After validating the specificity of our anti-TREX1 rabbit pAb, WB analysis was utilized to detect the endogenous wild-type and frame-shift mutant of TREX1 in cell lysates. Dual staining in human brain tissues from patients with RVCL and normal controls localized TREX1 to a subset of microglia and macrophages. Quantification of immunohistochemical staining of the cerebral cortex revealed that TREX1+ microglia were primarily in the gray matter of normal controls (22.7 ± 5.1% and 5.5 ± 1.9% of Iba1+ microglia in gray and white matter, respectively) and commonly in association with the microvasculature. In contrast, in subjects with RVCL, the TREX1+ microglia were predominantly located in the white matter of normal appearing cerebral cortex (11.8 ± 3.1% and 38.9 ± 5.8% of Iba1+ microglia in gray and white matter, respectively). The number of TREX1+ microglia was increased in ischemic brain lesions in central nervous system of RVCL and stroke patients. Conclusions: TREX1 is expressed by a subset of microglia in normal human brain, often in close proximity to the microvasculature, and increases in the setting of ischemic lesions. These findings suggest a role for TREX1+ microglia in vessel homeostasis and response to ischemic injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-821
Number of pages16
JournalBrain Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • DNase1
  • TREX1
  • brain ischemia
  • macrophages
  • microglia
  • vasculopathy


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