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J Histochem Cytochem. 1992 Apr;40(4):505-12.

Lectin staining of cultured CNS microglia.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.


Carbohydrate binding proteins, known as lectins, bind to specific sugar groups on most membranes. We used fluorescent and light microscopy to study the interaction of various lectins with the membranes of microglia cultured from neonatal rat or fetal mouse cerebral cortices. Microglia stained intensely with GS-1, RCA, WGA, and ConA and slightly with DBA, UEA, BPA, and SBA. No staining was seen with GS-2, MPA, or PNA. Staining was specific for microglia in the mixed glial cultures and was dose dependent. In addition, microglial lectin binding could be reduced or blocked by competitive inhibition using specific sugars. Treatment of the microglia with agents such as dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), interleukin-1 (IL-1), interferon (IFN), or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) did not eliminate lectin staining, although the degree of staining was altered. Positive staining of the microglia was also associated with a functional change for at least one lectin, i.e., ConA. Superoxide anion production by microglia was increased in the presence of ConA. Overall, binding of the lectins GS-1, RCA, WGA, and ConA can be used as an identifying tool for microglia in glial cultures, but intensity of staining varies depending on their functional state.

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