Identification of a conserved and acute neurodegeneration-specific microglial transcriptome in the zebrafish

Glia. 2017 Jan;65(1):138-149. doi: 10.1002/glia.23083. Epub 2016 Oct 19.


Microglia are brain resident macrophages important for brain development, connectivity, homeostasis and disease. However, it is still largely unclear how microglia functions and their identity are regulated at the molecular level. Although recent transcriptomic studies have identified genes specifically expressed in microglia, the function of most of these genes in microglia is still unknown. Here, we performed RNA sequencing on microglia acutely isolated from healthy and neurodegenerative zebrafish brains. We found that a large fraction of the mouse microglial signature is conserved in the zebrafish, corroborating the use of zebrafish to help understand microglial genetics in mammals in addition to studying basic microglia biology. Second, our transcriptome analysis of microglia following neuronal ablation suggested primarily a proliferative response of microglia, which we confirmed by immunohistochemistry and in vivo imaging. Together with the recent improvements in genome editing technology in zebrafish, these data offer opportunities to facilitate functional genetic research on microglia in vivo in the healthy as well as in the diseased brain. GLIA 2016;65:138-149.

Keywords: RNA sequencing; microglia; neuronal cell death; proliferation; transcriptome; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Death
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • Zebrafish