Microglia are resident myeloid cells in the CNS that are activated by infection, neuronal injury, and inflammation. Established BV2 microglial cell lines have been the primary in vitro models used to study neuroinflammation for more than a decade because they reduce the requirement of continuously maintaining cell preparations and animal experimentation models. However, doubt has recently been raised regarding the value of BV2 cell lines as a model system.
We used triplicate RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to investigate the molecular signature of primary and BV2 microglial cell lines using two transcriptomic techniques: global transcriptomic biological triplicate RNA-seq and quantitative real-time PCR. We analyzed differentially expressed genes (DEGs) to identify transcription factor (TF) motifs (−950 to +50 bp of the 5′ upstream promoters) and epigenetic mechanisms.
Sequencing assessment and quality evaluation revealed that primary microglia have a distinct transcriptomic signature and express a unique cluster of transcripts in response to lipopolysaccharide. This microglial signature was not observed in BV2 microglial cell lines. Importantly, we observed that previously unidentified TFs (i.e., IRF2, IRF5, IRF8, STAT1, STAT2, and STAT5A) and the epigenetic regulators KDM1A, NSD3, and SETDB2 were significantly and selectively expressed in primary microglia (PM). Although transcriptomic alterations known to occur in BV2 microglial cell lines were identified in PM, we also observed several novel transcriptomic alterations in PM that are not frequently observed in BV2 microglial cell lines.
Collectively, these unprecedented findings demonstrate that established BV2 microglial cell lines are probably a poor representation of PM, and we establish a resource for future studies of neuroinflammation.