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Exp Neurol. 2005 Dec;196(2):290-7. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Predominant phagocytic activity of resident microglia over hematogenous macrophages following transient focal cerebral ischemia: an investigation using green fluorescent protein transgenic bone marrow chimeric mice.

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Dept. of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Str. 33, D-48129 Münster, Germany.


Activated microglia and hematogenous macrophages are known to be involved in infarct development after cerebral ischemia. Traditionally, hematogenic macrophages are thought to be the primary cells to remove the ischemic cell debris. However, phagocytosis is a well known property also of activated microglia. Due to a lack of discriminating cellular markers, the cellular origin of phagocytes and the temporal course of phagocytosis by these two cell types are largely unknown. In this study, we used green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic bone marrow chimeric mice and semithin serial sections after methyl methacrylate embedding of the brains to dissect in detail the proportion of identified activated resident microglial cells and infiltrating hematogenous macrophages in phagocytosing neuronal cell debris after 30 min of transient focal cerebral ischemia. Already at day one after reperfusion, we found a rapid decrease of neurons in the ischemic tissue reaching minimum numbers at day seven. Resident GFP-negative microglial cells rapidly became activated at day one and started to phagocytose neuronal material. By contrast, hematogenous macrophages incorporating neuronal cell debris were observed in the ischemic area not earlier than on day four. Quantitative analysis showed maximum numbers of phagocytes of local origin within 2 days and of blood-borne macrophages on day four. The majority of phagocytes in the infarct area were derived from local microglia, preceding and predominating over phagocytes of hematogenous origin. This recruitment reveals a remarkable predominance of local defense mechanisms for tissue clearance over immune cells arriving from the blood after ischemic damage.

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