Microglia originate from erythromyeloid progenitors (EMPs) in the yolk sac and develop in the forming CNS. Microglia are fundamental for the development and function of a healthy brain. By contrast, their role in immune host defense of the CNS remains speculative, given the immune privilege of this organ. Alterations in microglia functionality are involved in brain aging, as well as in neurodegenerative disease severity and progression. The combination of their ontogeny with the influence of the complex environment of the CNS makes microglia a unique cell population. Recent observations about microglia ontogeny combined with extensive gene expression profiling allow us to better capture the variety of nuances that microglia can manifest. Here, we provide a contemporary appraisal of microglial uniqueness based on their origin, functions, and expression profiles. Furthermore, we give an overview of the impact of aging and neurodegenerative diseases on microglia transcriptomes.
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