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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2003 Oct;23(4-5):551-60.

Microglial phagocytosis of dopamine neurons at early phases of apoptosis.

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The Burke Medical Research Institute, Department of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College, Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, White Plains, New York 10605, USA.


Transection of the medial forebrain bundle caused apoptosis of dopamine neurons in the rat substantia nigra. Immunohistochemical localization of activated microglia and tyrosine hydroxylase in the axotomized substantia nigra showed that activation of microglia was rapid and OX-6 (MHC-II marker)-positive and ED1 (lysosomal phagocytic marker)-positive microglia were apposed to structurally intact tyrosine hydroxylase-positive dopamine neurons, indicating microglial phagocytosis of degenerating dopamine neurons. The occurrence of microglial phagocytosis at early stages of apoptosis may indicate the evolution of apoptosis into an irreversible state. Alternatively, interventions that suppress early activation of microglia might lead to novel mechanisms for neuron protection.

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