Fine-tuning the central nervous system: microglial modelling of cells and synapses

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Oct 19;369(1654):20130593. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0593.


Microglia constitute as much as 10-15% of all cells in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) and are the only glial cells that do not arise from the neuroectoderm. As the principal CNS immune cells, microglial cells represent the first line of defence in response to exogenous threats. Past studies have largely been dedicated to defining the complex immune functions of microglial cells. However, our understanding of the roles of microglia has expanded radically over the past years. It is now clear that microglia are critically involved in shaping neural circuits in both the developing and adult CNS, and in modulating synaptic transmission in the adult brain. Intriguingly, microglial cells appear to use the same sets of tools, including cytokine and chemokine release as well as phagocytosis, whether modulating neural function or mediating the brain's innate immune responses. This review will discuss recent developments that have broadened our views of neuro-glial signalling to include the contribution of microglial cells.

Keywords: cerebral cortex; microglia; neuroblasts; neurogenesis; neurons; synapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Cytokines