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Dev Neurosci. 1999;21(6):491-505.

Activation of microglia during developmentally regulated cell death in the cerebral cortex.

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Biology Department and Program in Neuroscience and Behavior, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, USA.


Neuronal elimination in the developing CNS is accomplished by an orderly type of cellular suicide called programmed cell death. The principal non-neuronal cells implicated in regulating programmed cell death and subsequent phagocytosis of dying neurons are the brain's macrophage population, the microglia. Little is known about the signaling between microglia and neurons during programmed cell death. However, macrophages in non-neural tissues express receptors for immunoglobulin (IgG) and complement, and these molecules help regulate phagocytosis of dying cells and foreign organisms. Since many of the neurons generated early in CNS development are transient cell types that are immunoreactive for IgG [Upender et al.: J Comp Neurol 1997; 384:271-282], we hypothesized that IgG might alter the phagocytic properties of microglia within the developing nervous system and potentiate engulfment of dying cells. To begin to address this hypothesis, we first asked whether cortical neurons immunoreactive for IgG or calbindin-D28k exhibit morphological evidence of programmed cell death in the cerebral cortex of neonatal rat pups. Secondly, we quantified the incidence of contacts made by microglia on IgG- vs. calbindin-immunoreactive neurons. Thirdly, perturbation experiments were performed to elevate intracortical levels of IgG and the incidence of microglia:neuron contacts were determined. We found that although the nuclei of some IgG-immunoreactive neurons exhibited condensation and fragmentation characteristic of programmed cell death, we did not observe pyknotic calbindin-immunoreactive neurons. IgG-immunoreactive neurons were also more likely to be contacted by microglia than calbindin-immunoreactive neurons. Elevating intracortical levels of IgG experimentally led to a dramatic increase in the expression of microglia complement receptors throughout the cerebral cortex. Taken together, these results suggest that IgG normally present within neuronal subsets in the developing cerebral cortex could serve to locally regulate the expression of complement receptors on microglia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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