Iba1 is a novel calcium-binding protein and is specifically expressed in microglia in the brain. It has been suggested that Iba1 plays an important role in regulation of the function of microglia. In the present study we examined time-dependent Iba1 expression after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion and characterized microglial activation in various brain regions.
Rat middle cerebral artery occlusion was induced by the intraluminal filament technique. After 1.5 hours of transient ischemia, Iba1 expression was examined by immunohistochemical and immunoblot analyses. The microglial activation in association with ischemic severity was characterized by double immunostaining with other specific markers.
In the peri-ischemic area, heavily Iba1 immunoreactive cells rapidly appeared at 3.5 hours after reperfusion. Immunoreactivity was further increased and peaked at 7 days. In the ischemic core, round Iba1-positive cells, which may be blood-borne monocytes, appeared from 24 hours and reached a peak at 4 to 7 days. Double immunostaining revealed that activated microglia in the peri-ischemic area upregulated Iba1 expression but were negative for the macrophage marker ED1. ED1-positive cells were clearly restricted to the ischemic core.
These findings suggest the following: (1) Iba1 expression may be associated with microglial activation in ischemic brain, and Iba1 immunostaining can be useful to evaluate the pathophysiological roles of activated microglia in ischemic injury. (2) Expression of ED1 antigen is strictly restricted to severe ischemic damage, whereas activated microglia in the peri-ischemic area showed Iba1 upregulation without ED1. Therefore, microglia may exhibit difference of antigenicity in the severity of ischemic brain injury.