The subpopulation of microglia sensitive to neurotransmitters/neurohormones is modulated by stimulation with LPS, interferon-γ, and IL-4


  • M. Pannell
  • F. Szulzewsky
  • V. Matyash
  • S.A. Wolf
  • H. Kettenmann


  • Glia


  • Glia 62 (5): 667-679


  • Recently, neurotransmitters/neurohormones have been identified as factors controlling the function of microglia, the immune competent cells of the central nervous system. In this study, we compared the responsiveness of microglia to neurotransmitters/neurohormones. We freshly isolated microglia from healthy adult C57Bl/6 mice and found that only a small fraction (1-20%) responded to the application of endothelin, histamine, substance P, serotonin, galanin, somatostatin, angiotensin II, vasopressin, neurotensin, dopamine, or nicotine. In cultured microglia from neonatal and adult mice, a similarly small population of cells responded to these neurotransmitters/neurohormones. To induce a proinflammatory phenotype, we applied lipopolysaccaride (LPS) or interferon-gamma (IFN-{gamma}) to the cultures for 24 h. Several of the responding populations increased; however, there was no uniform pattern when comparing adult with neonatal microglia or LPS with IFN-{gamma} treatment. IL-4 as an anti-inflammatory substance increased the histamine-, substance P-, and somatostatin-sensitive populations only in microglia from adult, but not in neonatal cells. We also found that the expression of different receptors was not strongly correlated, indicating that there are many different populations of microglia with a distinct set of receptors. Our results demonstrate that microglial cells are a heterogeneous population with respect to their sensitivity to neurotransmitters/neurohormones and that they are more responsive in defined activation states.