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Front Cell Neurosci. 2017 Sep 8;11:270. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2017.00270. eCollection 2017.

Microglia: An Interface between the Loss of Neuroplasticity and Depression.

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Psychiatric Neuroscience Lab, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of AdelaideAdelaide, SA, Australia.


Depression has been widely accepted as a major psychiatric disease affecting nearly 350 million people worldwide. Research focus is now shifting from studying the extrinsic and social factors of depression to the underlying molecular causes. Microglial activity is shown to be associated with pathological conditions, such as psychological stress, pathological aging, and chronic infections. These are primary immune effector cells in the CNS and regulate the extensive dialogue between the nervous and the immune systems in response to different immunological, physiological, and psychological stressors. Studies have suggested that during stress and pathologies, microglia play a significant role in the disruption of neuroplasticity and have detrimental effects on neuroprotection causing neuroinflammation and exacerbation of depression. After a systematic search of literature databases, relevant articles on the microglial regulation of bidirectional neuroimmune pathways affecting neuroplasticity and leading to depression were reviewed. Although, several hypotheses have been proposed for the microglial role in the onset of depression, it is clear that all molecular pathways to depression are linked through microglia-associated neuroinflammation and hippocampal degeneration. Molecular factors such as an excess of glucocorticoids and changes in gene expression of neurotrophic factors, as well as neuro active substances secreted by gut microbiota have also been shown to affect microglial morphology and phenotype resulting in depression. This review aims to critically analyze the various molecular pathways associated with the microglial role in depression.


cytokines; depression; glial cells; immune; microglia; neurodegeneration; neuroprotection

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