Microglia Function During Brain Development: New Insights From Animal Models

Brain Res. 2015 Aug 18;1617:7-17. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2014.11.032. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


The role of microglia in healthy brains is just beginning to receive notice. Recent studies have revealed that these phagocytic cells control the patterning and wiring of the developing central nervous system (CNS) by regulating, amongst many other processes, programmed cell death, activity-dependent synaptic pruning and synapse maturation. Microglia also play important roles in the mature brain and have demonstrated effects on behavior. Converging evidence from human and mouse studies together raise questions as to the role of microglia in disorders of brain development such as autism and, schizophrenia. In this review, we summarize a number of major findings regarding the role of microglia in brain development and highlight some key questions and avenues for future study. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Neuroimmunology in Health And Disease.

Keywords: Brain development; Microglia; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Programmed cell death; Synapse elimination; Synapse pruning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Microglia / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / immunology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Neurons / immunology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology