Microglial Depletion Causes Region-Specific Changes to Developmental Neuronal Cell Death in the Mouse Brain

Dev Neurobiol. 2019 Aug;79(8):769-779. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22706. Epub 2019 Jun 29.


Developmental neuronal cell death has been characterized as a cell autonomous "suicide" program, but recent findings suggest that microglia play an active role in determining the survival of developing neurons. Results have been contradictory, however, with some studies concluding that microglia promote cell death, while others report that microglia are neuroprotective. Here, we depleted microglia throughout the newborn mouse brain using intracerebroventricular injections of clodronate liposomes, and examined effects on naturally occurring cell death across multiple brain areas. Microglial density varied significantly by brain region, and clodronate liposome treatment at birth reduced the number of microglia in all regions examined. The effect of microglia reduction on cell death, however, varied by region: the number of dying cells was reduced in the medial septum and medial amygdala in clodronate treated animals, but was increased in the oriens layer of the hippocampus, and unchanged in several other brain regions. In most brain regions, the average size of microglia was greater in microglia-depleted than in control animals, suggesting that the remaining microglia compensate to some extent for a reduction in microglial number. The hippocampal oriens was exceptional in this regard, in that microglial size was reduced following treatment with clodronate. Microglia produce cytokines which mediate many of their effects, and we found higher expression of inflammatory cytokines in the hippocampus than in the septum, independent of clodronate treatment. Thus, microglial depletion has opposite effects on cell death in different brain regions of the newborn brain, which may be related to regional heterogeneity in microglia.

Keywords: amygdala; apoptosis; clodronate; hippocampus; microglia; postnatal; septum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Clodronic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects


  • Clodronic Acid