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Front Integr Neurosci. 2016 Jan 19;9:73. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2015.00073. eCollection 2015.

Deciphering Resting Microglial Morphology and Process Motility from a Synaptic Prospect.

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1
INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, Lyon Neuroscience Research CenterLyon, France; Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1Lyon, France.

Abstract

Microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS), were traditionally believed to be set into action only in case of injury or disease. Accordingly, microglia were assumed to be inactive or resting in the healthy brain. However, recent studies revealed that microglia carry out active tissue sampling in the intact brain by extending and retracting their ramified processes while periodically contacting synapses. Microglial morphology and motility as well as the frequency and duration of physical contacts with synaptic elements were found to be modulated by neuronal activity, sensory experience and neurotransmission; however findings have not been straightforward. Microglial cells are the most morphologically plastic element of the CNS. This unique feature confers them the possibility to locally sense activity, and to respond adequately by establishing synaptic contacts to regulate synaptic inputs by the secretion of signaling molecules. Indeed, microglial cells can hold new roles as critical players in maintaining brain homeostasis and regulating synaptic number, maturation and plasticity. For this reason, a better characterization of microglial cells and cues mediating neuron-to-microglia communication under physiological conditions may help advance our understanding of the microglial behavior and its regulation in the healthy brain. This review highlights recent findings on the instructive role of neuronal activity on microglial motility and microglia-synapse interactions, focusing on the main transmitters involved in this communication and including newly described communication at the tripartite synapse.

KEYWORDS:

ATP; glutamate; microglia; motility; neuronal activity

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