Glial cell morphological and density changes through the lifespan of rhesus macaques

Brain Behav Immun. 2016 Jul;55:60-69. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.01.006. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


How aging impacts the central nervous system (CNS) is an area of intense interest. Glial morphology is known to affect neuronal and immune function as well as metabolic and homeostatic balance. Activation of glia, both astrocytes and microglia, occurs at several stages during development and aging. The present study analyzed changes in glial morphology and density through the entire lifespan of rhesus macaques, which are physiologically and anatomically similar to humans. We observed apparent increases in gray matter astrocytic process length and process complexity as rhesus macaques matured from juveniles through adulthood. These changes were not attributed to cell enlargement because they were not accompanied by proportional changes in soma or process volume. There was a decrease in white matter microglial process length as rhesus macaques aged. Aging was shown to have a significant effect on gray matter microglial density, with a significant increase in aged macaques compared with adults. Overall, we observed significant changes in glial morphology as macaques age indicative of astrocytic activation with subsequent increase in microglial density in aged macaques.

Keywords: Aging; Astrocyte; Glia; Microglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / cytology*
  • Gray Matter / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • White Matter / cytology*
  • White Matter / growth & development*