Prolonged obesity is associated with cerebrovascular dysfunction; however, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unclear. In the present study, using a prolonged obesity mouse model that suffers from basilar artery (BA) abnormalities, we find that microglial transforming growth factor β-activated kinase 1 (Tak1) is over-activated in the brainstem. Both pharmacological inhibition primarily in the brainstem and genetic microglia-selective deletion of Tak1 ameliorated BA vascular dysfunction. Conversely, microglia-specific activation of Tak1 in the brainstem was sufficient to cause an impairment in BA function in chow-fed mice. Mechanistically, Tak1 activation leads to increased interleukin-18 (IL-18) production, whereas blockade of IL-18 receptor in the brain helped protect against cerebrovascular dysfunction despite prolonged obesity. Microglia-selective deletion of Tak1 also protects against ischemic stroke in prolonged obesity. Taken together, these findings provide evidence that microglial Tak1 in the brain, and particularly the brainstem, contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity-associated cerebrovascular dysfunction.
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