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Replacement of microglia in the aged brain reverses cognitive, synaptic, and neuronal deficits in mice.

  • Author(s): Elmore, Monica RP
  • Hohsfield, Lindsay A
  • Kramár, Enikö A
  • Soreq, Lilach
  • Lee, Rafael J
  • Pham, Stephanie T
  • Najafi, Allison R
  • Spangenberg, Elizabeth E
  • Wood, Marcelo A
  • West, Brian L
  • Green, Kim N
  • et al.
Abstract

Microglia, the resident immune cell of the brain, can be eliminated via pharmacological inhibition of the colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R). Withdrawal of CSF1R inhibition then stimulates microglial repopulation, effectively replacing the microglial compartment. In the aged brain, microglia take on a "primed" phenotype and studies indicate that this coincides with age-related cognitive decline. Here, we investigated the effects of replacing the aged microglial compartment with new microglia using CSF1R inhibitor-induced microglial repopulation. With 28 days of repopulation, replacement of resident microglia in aged mice (24 months) improved spatial memory and restored physical microglial tissue characteristics (cell densities and morphologies) to those found in young adult animals (4 months). However, inflammation-related gene expression was not broadly altered with repopulation nor the response to immune challenges. Instead, microglial repopulation resulted in a reversal of age-related changes in neuronal gene expression, including expression of genes associated with actin cytoskeleton remodeling and synaptogenesis. Age-related changes in hippocampal neuronal complexity were reversed with both microglial elimination and repopulation, while microglial elimination increased both neurogenesis and dendritic spine densities. These changes were accompanied by a full rescue of age-induced deficits in long-term potentiation with microglial repopulation. Thus, several key aspects of the aged brain can be reversed by acute noninvasive replacement of microglia.

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