New insights on the role of microglia in synaptic pruning in health and disease

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2016 Feb;36:128-34. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.12.004. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Recent genome-wide association studies implicate microglia in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis; however, their biological significance remains poorly understood. Synapse loss is a significant correlate of cognitive decline that serves as a critical hallmark of AD and other neurodegenerative diseases; however, mechanisms underlying synaptic vulnerability remain elusive. Emerging research on microglia function in the healthy brain is providing new insight into fundamental roles of microglia and immune molecules in brain wiring. Among their many roles, microglia prune developing synapses and regulate synaptic plasticity and function. Here, we review and discuss how this emerging work may provide new insight into how disruptions in microglia-synapse interactions could contribute to synapse loss and dysfunction, and consequently cognitive impairment, in AD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / immunology*