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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2013 Aug;40(8):571-9. doi: 10.1111/1440-1681.12099.

Brain and retinal microglia in health and disease: an unrecognized target of the renin-angiotensin system.

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Department of Pharmacology, Monash University, Clayton, Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Microglia are the resident immune cells within the brain and retina, commonly known as the macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS). Microglia survey the surrounding milieu to eliminate invading microbes, clear cellular debris and enforce programmed cell death by removing apoptotic cells. Complementary to their 'house-keeping' role, microglia are capable of releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), as well as various anti-inflammatory cytokines that sustain and support neuronal survival. Although microglia are essential for maintaining a healthy CNS, paradoxically they may undergo phenotypic changes to influence numerous neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the underlying mechanisms that determine whether microglia are supportive or toxic could elucidate novel and more effective therapeutic targets to treat an array of neurological and retinal diseases. Although relatively little is known about the influences that evoke phenotypic changes in the microglial population, there is accumulating evidence illustrating an interaction with the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). The angiotensin AT1 and AT2 receptors may have differential roles in mediating the activity of microglia. Understanding the actions of these angiotensin receptors will be important in defining whether microglia are an important therapeutic target for RAS blockade in brain and ocular diseases.


angiotensin; angiotensin AT2 receptor; brain; microglia; retina

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