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Neurobiol Aging. 2017 Apr;52:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.12.028. Epub 2017 Jan 5.

Rod-shaped microglia morphology is associated with aging in 2 human autopsy series.

Author information

1
Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA; Department of Neuroscience, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. Electronic address: adam.bachstetter@uky.edu.
2
Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA; Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
3
Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
4
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA; Division of Neuropathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
5
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
6
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA; Department of Epidemiology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.

Abstract

A subtype of microglia is defined by the morphological appearance of the cells as rod shaped. Little is known about this intriguing cell type, as there are only a few case reports describing rod-shaped microglia in the neuropathological literature. Rod-shaped microglia were shown recently to account for a substantial proportion of the microglia cells in the hippocampus of both demented and cognitively intact aged individuals. We hypothesized that aging could be a defining feature in the occurrence of rod-shaped microglia. To test this hypothesis, 2 independent series of autopsy cases (total n = 168 cases), which covered the adult lifespan from 20 to 100+ years old, were included in the study. The presence or absence of rod-shaped microglia was scored on IBA1 immunohistochemically stained slides for the hippocampus and cortex. We found that age was one of the strongest determinants for the presence of rod-shaped microglia in the hippocampus and the cortex. We found no association with the presence of rod-shaped microglia and a self-reported history of a TBI. Alzheimer's disease-related pathology was found to influence the presence of rod-shaped microglia, but only in the parietal cortex and not in the hippocampus or temporal cortex. Future studies are warranted to determine the functional relevance of rod-shaped microglia in supporting the health of neurons in the aged brain, and the signaling processes that regulate the formation of rod-shaped microglia.

KEYWORDS:

Aging; Alzheimer's disease; Hippocampus; Microglia activation; Neurodegeneration; Neuroinflammation; Neuropathology; Traumatic brain injury

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