Vesicle-mediated transport and release of CCL21 in endangered neurons: a possible explanation for microglia activation remote from a primary lesion

J Neurosci. 2005 Aug 17;25(33):7548-57. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1019-05.2005.


Whenever neurons in the CNS are injured, microglia become activated. In addition to local activation, microglia remote from the primary lesion site are stimulated. Because this so-called secondary activation of microglia is instrumental for long-term changes after neuronal injury, it is important to understand how microglia activity is controlled. The remote activation of microglia implies that the activating signals are transported along neuronal projections. However, the identity of these signals has not yet been identified. It is shown here that glutamate-treated neurons rapidly express and release the chemokine CCL21. We also provide evidence that neuronal CCL21 is packed in vesicles and transported throughout neuronal processes to reach presynaptic structures. Chemotaxis assays show that functional CCL21 is released from endangered neurons and activate microglia via the chemokine receptor CXCR3. Based on these findings, we suggest that neuronal CCL21 is important in directed neuron-microglia signaling and that this communication could account for the remote activation of microglia, far distant from a primary lesion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CCL21
  • Chemokines, CC / biosynthesis
  • Chemokines, CC / metabolism*
  • Encephalitis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*


  • CCL21 protein, human
  • Ccl21c protein, mouse
  • Chemokine CCL21
  • Chemokines, CC