Siglec-H is a microglia-specific marker that discriminates microglia from CNS-associated macrophages and CNS-infiltrating monocytes

Glia. 2017 Dec;65(12):1927-1943. doi: 10.1002/glia.23204. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Several types of myeloid cell are resident in the CNS. In the steady state, microglia are present in the CNS parenchyma, whereas macrophages reside in boundary regions of the CNS, such as perivascular spaces, the meninges and choroid plexus. In addition, monocytes infiltrate into the CNS parenchyma from circulation upon blood-brain barrier breakdown after CNS injury and inflammation. Although several markers, such as CD11b and ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 (Iba1), are frequently used as microglial markers, they are also expressed by other types of myeloid cell and microglia-specific markers were not defined until recently. Previous transcriptome analyses of isolated microglia identified a transmembrane lectin, sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectin H (Siglec-H), as a molecular signature for microglia; however, this was not confirmed by histological studies in the nervous system and the reliability of Siglec-H as a microglial marker remained unclear. Here, we demonstrate that Siglec-H is an authentic marker for microglia in mice by immunohistochemistry using a Siglec-H-specific antibody. Siglec-H was expressed by parenchymal microglia from developmental stages to adulthood, and the expression was maintained in activated microglia under injury or inflammatory condition. However, Siglec-H expression was absent from CNS-associated macrophages and CNS-infiltrating monocytes, except for a minor subset of cells. We also show that the Siglech gene locus is a feasible site for specific targeting of microglia in the nervous system. In conclusion, Siglec-H is a reliable marker for microglia that will allow histological identification of microglia and microglia-specific gene manipulation in the nervous system.

Keywords: DAP12; allodynia; choroid plexus; inflammation; meninges; myeloid cells; pain; perivascular spaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Central Nervous System / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / etiology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / genetics
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / pathology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Myelin-Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein / toxicity
  • Myeloid Cells / pathology
  • Neuralgia / pathology*
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / genetics
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / physiology
  • Peptide Fragments / toxicity
  • Pertussis Toxin / toxicity
  • Receptors, CCR2 / genetics
  • Receptors, CCR2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*


  • Ccr2 protein, mouse
  • Lectins
  • Myelin-Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, CCR2
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Siglech protein, mouse
  • myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (35-55)
  • Pertussis Toxin