Distinct Th17 effector cytokines differentially promote microglial and blood-brain barrier inflammatory responses during post-infectious encephalitis
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infections can cause neuropsychiatric sequelae in children due to post-infectious encephalitis. Multiple GAS infections induce migration of Th17 lymphocytes from the nose into the brain, which are critical for microglial activation, blood-brain barrier (BBB) and neural circuit impairment in a mouse disease model. How endothelial cells (ECs) and microglia respond to GAS infections, and which Th17-derived cytokines are essential for these responses are unknown. Using single-cell RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics, we found that ECs downregulate BBB genes and microglia upregulate interferon-response, chemokine and antigen-presentation genes after GAS infections. Several microglial-derived chemokines were elevated in patient sera. Administration of a neutralizing antibody against interleukin-17A (IL-17A), but not ablation of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in T cells, partially rescued BBB dysfunction and microglial expression of chemokine genes. Thus, IL-17A is critical for neuropsychiatric sequelae of GAS infections and may be targeted to treat these disorders.