In the adult hippocampus, neuroprogenitor cells in the subgranular zone
(SGZ) of the dentate gyrus give rise to newborn neuroblasts. However, only a
small subset of these cells integrates into the hippocampal circuitry as mature
neurons at the end of a four-week period. Here, we show that the majority of the
newborn cells undergo death by apoptosis in the first one to four days of their
life, during the transition from amplifying neuroprogenitors to neuroblasts.
These apoptotic newborn cells are rapidly cleared out through phagocytosis by
unchallenged microglia present in the adult SGZ niche. Phagocytosis by the
microglia is efficient and undeterred by increased age or inflammatory
challenge. Our results suggest that the main critical period of newborn cell
survival occurs within a few days of birth and reveal a new role for microglia
in maintaining the homeostasis of the baseline neurogenic cascade.
Microglia were recently shown to play unexpected roles in normal brain development and adult physiology. This has begun to dramatically change our view of these resident "immune" cells. Here, we briefly review topics covered in our 2011 Society for Neuroscience minisymposium "The Role of Microglia in the Healthy Brain." This summary is not meant to be a comprehensive review of microglia physiology, but rather to share new results and stimulate further research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which microglia influence postnatal development, adult neuronal plasticity, and circuit function.
Microglia play a critical role in neurodegenerative diseases and in the brain aging process. Yet, little is known about the functional dynamics of microglia during aging. Thus, using young and aging transgenic mice expressing enhancedgreen fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the promoter of the c-fms gene for macrophage-colony stimulating factor receptor, we evaluated in vivo-induced inflammatory responses of EGFP-expressing microglia sorted by flow cytometry. Aging microglia were characterized by the presence of lipofuscin granules, decreased processes complexity, altered granularity, and increased mRNA expression of both proinflammatory (TNFa, IL-1b, IL-6) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10, TGFb1) cytokines. Following lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge (1 mg/kg, 3 h), aging microglia exhibit increased basal expression of TNFa, IL-1b, IL-6, and IL-10. Yet, the foldover-basal LPS response remained constant across age, implying that the inflammatory machinery in aging microglia is functional and adjusted to the basal state. Gender differences were not overall observed across the treatments (age, LPS). The low but sustained production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by aging microglia may have a profound impact in the brain aging process. V V C 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
SummaryMicroglia play key roles in brain development, homeostasis, and function, and it is widely assumed that the adult population is long lived and maintained by self-renewal. However, the precise temporal and spatial dynamics of the microglial population are unknown. We show in mice and humans that the turnover of microglia is remarkably fast, allowing the whole population to be renewed several times during a lifetime. The number of microglial cells remains steady from late postnatal stages until aging and is maintained by the spatial and temporal coupling of proliferation and apoptosis, as shown by pulse-chase studies, chronic in vivo imaging of microglia, and the use of mouse models of dysregulated apoptosis. Our results reveal that the microglial population is constantly and rapidly remodeled, expanding our understanding of its role in the maintenance of brain homeostasis.
Microglia are the resident brain macrophages and they have been traditionally studied as orchestrators of the brain inflammatory response during infections and disease. In addition, microglia has a more benign, less explored role as the brain professional phagocytes. Phagocytosis is a term coined from the Greek to describe the receptor-mediated engulfment and degradation of dead cells and microbes. In addition, microglia phagocytoses brain-specific cargo, such as axonal and myelin debris in spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, amyloid-β deposits in Alzheimer's disease, and supernumerary synapses in postnatal development. Common mechanisms of recognition, engulfment, and degradation of the different types of cargo are assumed, but very little is known about the shared and specific molecules involved in the phagocytosis of each target by microglia. More importantly, the functional consequences of microglial phagocytosis remain largely unexplored. Overall, phagocytosis is considered a beneficial phenomenon, since it eliminates dead cells and induces an anti-inflammatory response. However, phagocytosis can also activate the respiratory burst, which produces toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). Phagocytosis has been traditionally studied in pathological conditions, leading to the assumption that microglia have to be activated in order to become efficient phagocytes. Recent data, however, has shown that unchallenged microglia phagocytose apoptotic cells during development and in adult neurogenic niches, suggesting an overlooked role in brain remodeling throughout the normal lifespan. The present review will summarize the current state of the literature regarding the role of microglial phagocytosis in maintaining tissue homeostasis in health as in disease.
Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is believed to maintain a range of cognitive functions, many of which decline with age. We recently reported that radial neural stem cells (rNSCs) in the hippocampus undergo activation-dependent conversion into astrocytes, a mechanism that over time contributes to a reduction in the rNSC population. Here, we injected low and high levels of kainic acid (KA) in the dentate gyrus to assess whether neuronal hyperexcitation, a hallmark of epileptic disorders, could accelerate this conversion. At low levels of KA, generating epileptiform activity without seizures, we indeed found increased rNSC activation and conversion into astrocytes. At high levels, generating sustained epileptic seizures, however, we find that rNSCs divide symmetrically and that both mother and daughter cells convert into reactive astrocytes. Our results demonstrate that a threshold response for neuronal hyperexcitation provokes a dramatic shift in rNSCs function, which impairs adult hippocampal neurogenesis in the long term.
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