There is strong evidence that macrophages can participate in the regeneration or repair of injured nervous system. Here, we describe a protocol in which macrophages are induced to produce conditioned medium (CM) that promotes neurite outgrowth. Adult dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons are acutely dissociated and plated. After the neurons are stably attached, peritoneal macrophages are co-cultured on a cell culture insert overlaid on the same well. Dibutyryl cyclic AMP (db-cAMP) is applied to the co-cultures for 24 h, after which the cell culture insert containing the macrophages is moved to another well to collect CM for 72 h. The CM from the co-cultures treated with db-cAMP, when applied to a separate adult DRG neuron culture, exhibits robust neurite outgrowth activity. The CM obtained from the db-cAMP-treated cultures consisting of single cell type alone, either DRG neuron or peritoneal macrophage, did not exhibit neurite outgrowth activity. This indicates that the interaction between neurons and macrophages is indispensable for the activation of macrophages secreting molecular factors with neurite outgrowth activity into CM. Thus, our co-culture paradigm will also be useful to study intercellular signaling in the neuron-macrophage interaction to stimulate the macrophages to be endowed with a pro-regenerative phenotype.
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