High-dimensional, single-cell characterization of the brain's immune compartment

Nat Neurosci. 2017 Sep;20(9):1300-1309. doi: 10.1038/nn.4610. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


The brain and its borders create a highly dynamic microenvironment populated with immune cells. Yet characterization of immune cells within the naive brain compartment remains limited. In this study, we used CyTOF mass cytometry to characterize the immune populations of the naive mouse brain using 44 cell surface markers. By comparing immune cell composition and cell profiles between the brain compartment and blood, we were able to characterize previously undescribed cell subsets of CD8 T cells, B cells, NK cells and dendritic cells in the naive brain. Using flow cytometry, we show differential distributions of immune populations between meninges, choroid plexus and parenchyma. We demonstrate the phenotypic ranges of resident myeloid cells and identify CD44 as a marker for infiltrating immune populations. This study provides an approach for a system-wide view of immune populations in the brain and is expected to serve as a resource for understanding brain immunity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Cd44 protein, mouse
  • Hyaluronan Receptors