The Physiological and Pathological Roles of Microglia-Neuron Interactions in the Central Nervous System

Issue: 
2021
Institution: 
1 Department of Neuroscience, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195; 2 Department of Computer Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195; 3 Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195; 4 Department of Neurology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599

Microglia are the resident macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS). Numerous lines of research support a high frequency of microglia-neuron interactions in the brain and spinal cord. Often, interactions between microglia and neurons correspond with changes in individual synaptic strength, as assessed by neural activity, as well as synaptic or neuronal lifespan. Microglia-neuron interactions also contribute to large scale remodeling of neural networks during development and learning. This review first summarizes the relevant literature on the presence of microglia-neuron interactions in the resting state and how these interactions can mediate synaptic formation, neurogenesis, synaptic pruning, and synaptic strengthening or weakening. This review will then discuss how dysfunction in signaling mechanisms between microglia and neurons may lead to disease states, with examples from neurodegeneration, epilepsy, and psychiatric disorders.

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