The Indispensable Roles of Microglia and Astrocytes during Brain Development

Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Nov 8;10:566. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00566. eCollection 2016.


Glia are essential for brain functioning during development and in the adult brain. Here, we discuss the various roles of both microglia and astrocytes, and their interactions during brain development. Although both cells are fundamentally different in origin and function, they often affect the same developmental processes such as neuro-/gliogenesis, angiogenesis, axonal outgrowth, synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning. Due to their important instructive roles in these processes, dysfunction of microglia or astrocytes during brain development could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders and potentially even late-onset neuropathology. A better understanding of the origin, differentiation process and developmental functions of microglia and astrocytes will help to fully appreciate their role both in the developing as well as in the adult brain, in health and disease.

Keywords: astrocytes; brain development; glial cells; microglia; neurodevelopmental disorders.

Publication types

  • Review