Microglia as possible therapeutic targets for autism spectrum disorders

Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2019;167:223-245. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2019.06.012. Epub 2019 Jul 11.


Malfunctions of the nervous and immune systems are now recognized to be fundamental causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Studies have suggested that the brain's resident immune cells, microglia are possible key players in ASDs. Specifically, deficits in synaptic pruning by microglia may underlie the pathogenesis of ASDs, in which excess synapses are occasionally reported. This idea has driven researchers to investigate causal links between microglial dysfunction and ASDs. In this review, we first introduce the characteristics of microglia in ASD brains and discuss their possible roles in the pathogenesis of ASDs. We also refer to immunomodulatory agents that could be potentially used as symptomatic therapies for ASDs in light of their ability to modify microglial functions. Finally, we will mention a possible strategy to radically cure some of the symptoms reported in ASDs through reorganizing neural circuits via microglia-dependent synaptic pruning.

Keywords: Autism; Exercise; Microglia; Synapse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / drug therapy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / pathology*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / pathology*


  • Psychotropic Drugs