Microglia are well known to play a critical role in maintaining brain homeostasis.
For example, previous studies showed that microglia contribute to circuit refinement and synaptic plasticity in the developing and adult brain, respectively. Thus, microglia actively participate in regulating neuronal excitability and function.
A subset of microglia extend a single process that specifically associates and overlaps with the axon initial segment (AIS), the site where action potentials are generated. Similar associations were not observed with dendrites or distal axons. Microglia-AIS interactions appear early in development, persist throughout adulthood, and are conserved across species including mice, rats, and primates. However, these interactions are lost after microglial activation following brain injury, suggesting that such interactions may be part of healthy brain function. Loss of microglial CX3CR1 receptors, or the specialized extracellular matrix surrounding the AIS, did not disrupt the interaction. However, loss of AIS proteins by the neuron-specific deletion of the master AIS scaffold AnkyrinG disrupted microglia-AIS interactions. These results reveal a unique population of microglia that specifically interact with the AIS in the adult cortex 1).
Microglial cells share the characteristics of cells of the macrophage lineage 2).
Numerous evidence demonstrate that microglia mediated inflammatory injury plays a critical role in intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Therefore, the way to inhibit the inflammatory response is greatly needed.
Activated microglia and macrophages exert dual beneficial and detrimental roles after central nervous system injury, which are thought to be due to their polarization along a continuum from a classical pro-inflammatory M1-like state to an alternative anti-inflammatory M2-like state.
Kumar et al., performed a detailed phenotypic analysis of M1- and M2-like polarized microglia/macrophages, as well as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (NOX2) expression, through 7 days post-injury using real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), flow cytometry and image analyses.
They demonstrated that microglia/macrophages express both M1- and M2-like phenotypic markers early after TBI, but the transient up-regulation of the M2-like phenotype was replaced by a predominant M1- or mixed transitional (Mtran) phenotype that expressed high levels of NOX2 at 7 days post-injury. The shift towards the M1-like and Mtran phenotype was associated with increased cortical and hippocampal neurodegeneration. In a follow up study, we administered a selective NOX2 inhibitor, gp91ds-tat, to CCI mice starting at 24 h post-injury to investigate the relationship between NOX2 and M1-like/Mtran phenotypes. Delayed gp91ds-tat treatment altered M1-/M2-like balance in favor of the anti-inflammatory M2-like phenotype, and significantly reduced oxidative damage in neurons at 7 days post-injury.
Therefore, data suggest that despite M1-like and M2-like polarized microglia/macrophages being activated after TBI, the early M2-like response becomes dysfunctional over time, resulting in development of pathological M1-like and Mtran phenotypes driven by increased NOX2 activity 3).
Zhao et al. demonstrated that elevated mTOR signaling in mouse microglia leads to phenotypic changes, including an amoeboid-like morphology, increased proliferation, and robust phagocytosis activity, but without a significant induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines. We further provide evidence that these noninflammatory changes in microglia disrupt homeostasis of the CNS, leading to reduced synapse density, marked microglial infiltration into hippocampal pyramidal layers, moderate neuronal degeneration, and massive proliferation of astrocytes. Moreover, the mice thus affected develop severe early-onset spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRSs). Therefore, we have revealed an epileptogenic mechanism that is independent of the microglial inflammatory response. Our data suggest that microglia could be an opportune target for epilepsy prevention 4).