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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 18;6(3):e17910. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017910.

In Vivo imaging reveals distinct inflammatory activity of CNS microglia versus PNS macrophages in a mouse model for ALS.

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Department of Neurogenetics, Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine, Göttingen, Germany.


Mutations in the enzyme superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) cause hereditary variants of the fatal motor neuronal disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Pathophysiology of the disease is non-cell-autonomous: neurotoxicity is derived not only from mutant motor neurons but also from mutant neighbouring non-neuronal cells. In vivo imaging by two-photon laser-scanning microscopy was used to compare the role of microglia/macrophage-related neuroinflammation in the CNS and PNS using ALS-linked transgenic SOD1(G93A) mice. These mice contained labeled projection neurons and labeled microglia/macrophages. In the affected lateral spinal cord (in contrast to non-affected dorsal columns), different phases of microglia-mediated inflammation were observed: highly reactive microglial cells in preclinical stages (in 60-day-old mice the reaction to axonal transection was ∼180% of control) and morphologically transformed microglia that have lost their function of tissue surveillance and injury-directed response in clinical stages (reaction to axonal transection was lower than 50% of control). Furthermore, unlike CNS microglia, macrophages of the PNS lack any substantial morphological reaction while preclinical degeneration of peripheral motor axons and neuromuscular junctions was observed. We present in vivo evidence for a different inflammatory activity of microglia and macrophages: an aberrant neuroinflammatory response of microglia in the CNS and an apparently mainly neurodegenerative process in the PNS.

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