Shaping Neuronal Fate: Functional Heterogeneity of Direct Microglia-Neuron Interactions

Neuron. 2021 Jan 20;109(2):222-240. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.11.007. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


The functional contribution of microglia to normal brain development, healthy brain function, and neurological disorders is increasingly recognized. However, until recently, the nature of intercellular interactions mediating these effects remained largely unclear. Recent findings show microglia establishing direct contact with different compartments of neurons. Although communication between microglia and neurons involves intermediate cells and soluble factors, direct membrane contacts enable a more precisely regulated, dynamic, and highly effective form of interaction for fine-tuning neuronal responses and fate. Here, we summarize the known ultrastructural, molecular, and functional features of direct microglia-neuron interactions and their roles in brain disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / metabolism
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology