Microglia: Architects of the Developing Nervous System

Trends Cell Biol. 2016 Aug;26(8):587-597. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2016.02.006. Epub 2016 Mar 20.


Microglia are resident macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS), representing 5-10% of total CNS cells. Recent findings reveal that microglia enter the embryonic brain, take up residence before the differentiation of other CNS cell types, and become critical regulators of CNS development. Here, we discuss exciting new work implicating microglia in a range of developmental processes, including regulation of cell number and spatial patterning of CNS cells, myelination, and formation and refinement of neural circuits. Furthermore, we review studies suggesting that these cellular functions result in the modulation of behavior, which has important implications for a variety of neurological disorders.

Keywords: central nervous system; development; microglia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Cell Lineage
  • Humans
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nervous System / cytology*
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Neurons / cytology