Early morphofunctional plasticity of microglia in response to acute lipopolysaccharide

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Nov:34:151-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.08.008. Epub 2013 Aug 29.


Within the central nervous system (CNS) the traditional role of microglia has been in brain infection and disease, phagocytosing debris and secreting factors to modify disease progression. This led to the concept of "resting" versus "activated" microglia. However, this is misleading because multiple phenotypic and morphological stages of microglia can influence neuronal structure and function in any condition and recent evidence extends their role to healthy brain homeostasis. The present work was thus aimed at reappraising the concept of morphofunctional activity of microglia in a context of peripheral acute immune challenge, where microglial activity is known to be modified, using the new state-of-the-art techniques available. To do so, mice were injected peripherally with lipopolysaccharide, a potent inducer of cerebral inflammation, and we assessed early cytokines production, phenotype, motility and morphology of microglial cells. Our results showed that LPS induced a widespread inflammatory response both peripherally and centrally, as revealed by the quantification of cytokines levels. We also found an alteration of microglial motility that was confirmed by in vivo studies showing an overall reduction of microglial processes length in the hippocampus of LPS-treated animals. Finally, analysis of various surface receptors expression revealed that LPS did not significantly impact microglial phenotype 2h after the injection but rather induced an increase of CD11b(+)/CD45(high) cells. These latter may be at the vasculature, at the CNS vicinity, or may have invaded the CNS.

Keywords: Flow cytometry; Inflammation; M1/M2 phenotype; Microglia; Multiplex assay; Two-photon imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Lipopolysaccharides