Long-lasting post-mortem activity of spinal microglia in situ in mice

J Neurosci Res. 2010 Aug 15;88(11):2431-40. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22402.


As CNS macrophages, microglia show a high spontaneous motility of their processes, continuously surveying their microenvironment. Upon CNS injury, microglia react by immediate cellular polarization and process extension toward the lesion site as well as by subsequent amoeboid lesion-directed migration and phagocytosis. To determine the ability of microglia to fulfill their role within distinctively lesioned tissue in the absence of life support, we investigated microglial activity and responsiveness to laser-induced axonal injuries in the spinal dorsal columns in situ after cardiac and respiratory arrest, i.e., post-mortem, in the progressively degrading nervous tissue. For this purpose, we used time-lapse two-photon laser scanning microscopy in double transgenic mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein in microglia and enhanced yellow fluorescent protein in projection neurons. Depending on the premortal condition of the animal, microglial activity and responsiveness remain for up to5-10 hr post-mortem. Thereby, the continuously decreasing glial reaction is independent of oxygen and glucose supply but requires residual ATP, suggesting a parasitic form of energy, such as a transmembrane uptake of ATP released from injured nervous tissue. Even though initially microglia are able to detect axonal injury after disruption of the blood supply, the later aspects of glial reaction, for example amoeboid conversion and migration, are absent post- mortem, corresponding to the failure of microglia to prevent secondary damage after injury of nervous tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Microglia / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose