Histamine triggers microglial responses indirectly via astrocytes and purinergic signaling


  • P. Xia
  • F. Logiacco
  • Y. Huang
  • H. Kettenmann
  • M. Semtner


  • Glia


  • Glia 69 (9): 2291-2304


  • Histamine is a monoaminergic neurotransmitter which is released within the entire brain from ascending axons originating in the tuberomammillary nucleus in a sleep state-dependent fashion. Besides the modulation of neuronal firing patterns, brain histamine levels are also thought to modulate functions of glial cells. Microglia are the innate immune cells and professional phagocytes of the central nervous system, and histamine was previously shown to have multiple effects on microglial functions in health and disease. Isolated microglia respond only to agonists of the Hrh2 subtype of histamine receptors (Hrh), and the expression of that isoform is confirmed by a metadata analysis of microglia transcriptomes. When we studied the effect of the histamine receptor isoforms in cortical and thalamic microglia by in situ live cell Ca(2+) imaging using a novel, microglia-specific indicator mouse line, microglial cells respond to external histamine application mainly in a Hrh1-, and to a lower extent also in a Hrh2-dependent manner. The Hrh1 response was sensitive to blockers of purinergic P2ry12 receptors, and since Hrh1 expression was predominantly found in astrocytes, we suggest that the Hrh1 response in microglia is mediated by astrocyte ATP release and activation of P2ry12 receptors in microglia. Histamine also stimulates microglial phagocytic activity via Hrh1- and P2ry12-mediated signaling. Taken together, we provide evidence that histamine acts indirectly on microglial Ca(2+) levels and phagocytic activity via astrocyte histamine receptor-controlled purinergic signaling.