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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2014 May;15(5):300-12. doi: 10.1038/nrn3722. Epub 2014 Apr 9.

Microglia and brain macrophages in the molecular age: from origin to neuropsychiatric disease.

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1] Institute of Neuropathology, University of Freiburg, Breisacherstraße 64, 79106 Freiburg, Germany. [2] BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
1] Department of Neuropsychiatry and Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany. [2] Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany.


Mononuclear phagocytic cells in the CNS used to be defined according to their anatomical location and surface marker expression. Recently, this concept has been challenged by the results of developmental and gene expression profiling studies that have used novel molecular biological tools to unravel the origin of microglia and to define their role as specialized tissue macrophages with long lifespans. Here, we describe how these results have redefined microglia and helped us to understand how different myeloid cell populations operate in the CNS based on their cell-specific gene expression signatures, distinct ontogeny and differential functions. Moreover, we describe the vulnerability of microglia to dysfunction and propose that myelomonocytic cells might be used in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders that are characterized by primary or secondary 'microgliopathy'.

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