Microglia Function in the Normal Brain

  • Rommy von BernhardiEmail author
  • Florencia Heredia
  • Nicole Salgado
  • Paola Muñoz
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 949)


The activation of microglia has been recognized for over a century by their morphological changes. Long slender microglia acquire a short sturdy ramified shape when activated. During the past 20 years, microglia have been accepted as an essential cellular component for understanding the pathogenic mechanism of many brain diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases. More recently, functional studies and imaging in mouse models indicate that microglia are active in the healthy central nervous system. It has become evident that microglia release several signal molecules that play key roles in the crosstalk among brain cells, i.e., astrocytes and oligodendrocytes with neurons, as well as with regulatory immune cells. Recent studies also reveal the heterogeneous nature of microglia diverse functions depending on development, previous exposure to stimulation events, brain region of residence, or pathological state. Subjects to approach by future research are still the unresolved questions regarding the conditions and mechanisms that render microglia protective, capable of preventing or reducing damage, or deleterious, capable of inducing or facilitating the progression of neuropathological diseases. This novel knowledge will certainly change our view on microglia as therapeutic target, shifting our goal from their general silencing to the generation of treatments able to change their activation pattern.


Central nervous system Cytokines Development Glia Neuroinflammation 






Alzheimer’s disease


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Adenosine triphosphate


Brain derived neurotrophic factor


Central nervous system


Ciliary neurotrophic factor


Damage- or Danger-associated molecular patterns


Prostanoid receptor subtype 2


Gamma aminobutyric acid


Glia derived neurotrophic factor


Granulocyte/macrophage colony stimulating factor


 Human immunodeficiency virus


 Interferon gamma


Insulin-like growth factor 1


Interleukin 1


Inducible nitric oxide synthase


Inositol trisphosphate




Long time Potentiation


Macrophage colony-stimulating factor


Class I molecules of histocompatibility major complex


Nerve growth factor




Nitric Oxide




Pathogen-associated molecular patterns


Prostaglandin E2


Pattern recognition receptors


Regulated on activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted—chemokine CCL5


Reactive nitrogen species


Reactive oxygen species




Stromal cell-derived factor


Signal regulatory protein α


Scavenger receptors


Transforming growth factor-β


Toll-like receptors


Tumor necrosis factor α





This work was supported by grant FONDECYT 1131025 to RvB.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rommy von Bernhardi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Florencia Heredia
    • 1
  • Nicole Salgado
    • 1
  • Paola Muñoz
    • 1
  1. 1.Escuela de Medicina. Departamento de NeurologíaPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile

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